Tue, Jun 21, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Academics debate scope of transitional justice bill

WHOSE RIGHTS?Supporters of the bill say Aboriginal rights can be addressed in a separate bill, amid criticism over the proposal’s focus on Martial Law-era abuses

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Academics yesterday clashed over the scope of “transitional justice” at a final meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee before a line-by-line review of proposed transitional justice legislation begins later this week.

Convened by committee co-convener Lin Wei-chou (林為洲), a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator, the hearing featured numerous pan-blue-leaning representatives, many of whom repeatedly criticized the draft legislation’s concept of transitional justice as being overly vague and arbitrary.

“Transitional justice is a piece of political correctness which sometimes encompasses contradictory double standards,” said Lee Sun-cheng (李鎨澂), an analyst with the National Policy Foundation, a prominent KMT think tank.

Ko Ko-chung Lee echoed KMT claims that the DPP caucus’ draft legislation unfairly focuses on abuses of power under martial law, while ignoring historic injustices suffered by Aborigines.

The draft bill calls for establishing a special committee under the Executive Yuan with broad powers to investigate transitional justice issues, including declassifying government files and removing symbolic vestiges of authoritarianism, with a mandate to draft more concrete legislation to address specific issues.

“This law would represent legalization of morality, using numerous concepts for which there is no clear legal definition,” said Hsieh Shiang-ching (謝相慶), a professor at the Public Administration Department of Tamkang University, citing “liberal democracy” and “justice” as examples of legally vague political and philosophical concepts sprinkled throughout the text of the proposed bill.

Chinese Culture University political science professor Yang Tai-shun (楊泰順) said the legislation’s “discarding” of existing legal frameworks would make it self-defeating.

“The point of transitional justice is to heal the social divisions caused by authoritarian rule, but there is a danger of making those divisions deeper if you discard existing legal frameworks to settle accounts,” he said.

Other academics said the legislation had a clear focus in remedying the problem of legal injustices perpetuated under authoritarian rule, with conceptual roots in constitutional human rights guarantees.

“Freedom is part of our fundamental constitutional articles, so there is no way you can say the word has no legal basis,” National Taiwan University law professor Ko Ko-chung (柯格鍾) said, adding that justice also has a specific legal connotation.

“Transitional justice specifically targets actions which were legal, but not in line with the spirit of constitutional human rights guarantees,” he said.

“Transitional justice is not an endless attempt to remedy all historical injustices experienced by humankind, because that would impossible — so it has to be focused on the current political system” said Ko Chao-chin (柯朝欽), a professor of sociology at National Chiao Tung University.

Kao said Aboriginal rights should be addressed separately because the historic injustices they suffered were different in kind from those perpetrated under martial law.

Despite divisions over transitional justice, most participants agreed on the need to publicize more documents related to human rights abuses during the Martial Law era.

An official National Archives Administration report submitted to the committee stated that while all documents related to the 228 Incident — an uprising that began on Feb. 27, 1947, and was violently suppressed by the KMT government — has been declassified, 244 files related to other important political incidents and cases remain classified.

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