US rights group hits out at detention conditions for Chen

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Mon, Oct 01, 2012 - Page 3

The Washington-based Human Rights Action Center (HRAC) is appealing to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to grant former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) an “independent and unbiased medical evaluation without delay.”

HRAC director Jack Healey issued a statement on Saturday saying: “Don’t play politics with a human life.”

“Provide complete access to independent medical evaluation and care for Chen Shui-bian now,” he wrote.

“There is a cure for [the] human rights malaise in Taiwan and this is the first step,” Healey added.

Two members of the Center — Hans Wahl and Harreld Dinkins — visited Chen at Taoyuan General Hospital on Sept. 17 to assess his condition.

Chen, who is serving a 17-and-a-half-year prison sentence for corruption, had been admitted to the hospital after having difficulty urinating.

Healey said that Wahl and Dinkins thought the conditions under which the former president is being held were “grim.”

He said their report on Chen included a “disturbingly long list” of health concerns and that the recent discovery of more than 10 small infarctions in his brain indicated that his medical condition was “grave and worsening.”

Healey said the infarctions may explain the sudden stuttering and halting speech that Chen began exhibiting a few months ago.

“Without access to independently supervised medical care, Chen’s condition has been worsening,” Healey said.

The results of all medical tests so far conducted on Chen should be made available to the former president’s family so that they can decide “where and how to share them.”

“The only conclusion that I can draw is that the current government of Taiwan is attempting to levy a political punishment on Chen that includes a high and increasing likelihood of death,” Healey said.

Wahl and Dinkins had concluded, Healey said, that failure to provide better treatment for Chen could result in his developing a permanent disability.

“What a shameful stain this is becoming on Taiwan,” Healey said.

He added that decades of achievement in human rights protection were now being “overshadowed” by the Ma administration’s failure to act in the Chen case.