Court-martials during the Martial Law era were a “system of suppression” through which authorities violated human rights and freedoms, and through which the president could decide who lived or died, the Transitional Justice Commission said on Sunday in a new report.
Citing its research into the period, the commission said then-president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) had the power to review the rulings of all military tribunals — which were also used to try even civilians during that period — making him no different from an authoritarian dictator.
The 1931 ROC Political Tutelage Period Act (中華民國訓政時期約法) stipulated that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would lead the government and the military, and was applied to Taiwan after the Republic of China took control of it and its outlying islands in 1945.
In 1948, the National Assembly implemented the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款), and in May 1949 imposed martial law on Taiwan and the outlying islands, which was not lifted until July 15, 1987, by then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), although not in Kinmen and Lienchiang counties until 1992.
The provisions remained in place they were redacted by then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) in 1991.
The Executive Yuan repeatedly said during the Martial Law era that the judiciary and military courts would handle different cases, with the latter retaining the power to rule on criminal cases, the report said.
The report cites the case of Lin Pang-chun (林邦均), who was arrested with two others on charges of financial crime in 1950, and sentenced to three to 10 years in prison, but Chiang Kai-shek later reviewed their case and sentenced all three to death.
In 1975, the Executive Yuan requested that those accused of contravening the Criminal Code, the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍刑法) or the Act for the Control and Punishment of Banditry (懲治盜匪條例), and whose cases concerned national security or the military, have their cases reviewed directly by it, which would then transfer the cases to a military court for rulings, the report said.
Some victims of political persecution had their cases reviewed by senior military officers even though they were not in the armed forces, the report said.
Independent rulings were impossible under martial rule given the ultimate power that the president and senior military officers had over court rulings, it said.
Another case cited in the report is that of Changhua monk Kao Chih-te (高執德) and two others who were sentenced in 1954 to 12 years in prison for harboring communists, but were later executed after Chiang Kai-shek reviewed their case.
“Chiang [Kai-shek] ordered that he retain control of the outcome of military trials, a violation of the constitutional principle of the separation of powers,” the report said.
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