Wed, Dec 11, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Change to Habeas Corpus Act passes its initial reading

Staff writer, with CNA

A legislative committee on Monday approved an amendment to the Habeas Corpus Act (提審法) that would make it easier for a person detained by any institution other than a court to be brought before a judge within 24 hours.

The amendment, expected to be passed by the legislature, would represent a “major step forward in the protection of human rights” by providing renewed legal relief from the deprivation of personal freedom, said Lin Chun-yi, head of the Judicial Yuan’s criminal affairs department.

The amendment is dubbed “the Good Samaritan” clause because it allows others to request a court hearing on behalf of the detainee. It also requires institutions to inform detainees of their rights to see a judge.

The institutions to which the amendment would most likely apply include the military and health and immigration authorities.

Chinese nationals arriving in Taiwan for family reunions and illegal workers are expected to be among the main beneficiaries of the amended law.

After the law is revised, cases like the one involving late army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) can be prevented, Lin said after the session at the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.

He was referring to a high-profile case in which a 24-year-old conscript died of heat exhaustion in July after being detained.

In the case of a quarantine of a person suspected of having an infectious disease, the person can also ask for a hearing, which could take place via videoconferencing to safeguard against a potential spread of the disease, Lin said.

The person has to be set free if the judge finds that the detention is not consistent with the due process of law, he said.

If due process has been followed, then detention can continue, Lin said, adding that the main point is that extrajudicial authorities may not “just quietly keep a person locked up.”

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