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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Improving human rights needs actions not just a report - Part 1

Ex-president Chen Shui-bian's case

Human rights improvement needs actions, and not just a report. When will Ma Ying-jeou realize that?

Perhaps Ma doesn't care about carrying out much-needed transitional justice but he cares about how to make his administration "look good" on the surface, so on March 31 2009 Taiwan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
See news on Taiwan's ratification

Ma chose this "good-looking" route despite that the UN rejected Taiwan's deposit of ratification, and the UN Human Rights Committee is ineffective.
See UN refusal of Taiwan's deposit
See UN's ineffectiveness

Recently, Taiwan's first national report on human rights by 10 experts invited by Ma is out.
See news on Taiwan's human rights report

It urged the Ma administration on the following issues:

- to abolish capital punishment,

- to suspend the execution of death sentences,

- to reveal the truth behind the White Terror era,

- to respect freedom of assembly,

- and to prevent monopolization of the media.

The 84 recommendations listed by the experts included calls for the improvement of rights for migrant workers, Aborigines, women, gay and transgender people, and people with disabilities.

On an issue that has gathered great domestic attention, the experts said that the Ma administration should “take appropriate action in relation to the serious health problems of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

But it was 4 months ago that Ma should have already heard of foreign "medical experts" call for Chen's medical parole.
See Medical experts call for Chen's medical parole

A US medical team that examined Chen in June 2012 said that statements from the Ma administration that Chen was receiving adequate medical treatment were “ludicrous.”

The team, including Ken Yoneda and Charles Whitcomb — both professors of medicine at the University of California — said in a joint statement that Chen’s imprisonment conditions were “substandard and inhumane.”

They said the conditions were a major contributing factor, if not the cause, of Chen’s current physical and mental problems.

This is the recent (February 24 2013) response from Taiwan's Ministry of Justice: no medical parole for Chen!
See news of no medical parole for Chen

This is another more recent call for his medical parole by David Reid.

And more concern about the issue of Chen's recent medical conditions

"According to international human-rights activists, his prison’s harsh standard of treatment, which falls well below international norms, is contributing to serious illness."

"At the age of 61, Mr Chen has been confined to a tiny, damp and sometimes ant-ridden cell, with one cell mate but without a bed for four years. Aside from 60 minutes’ daily exercise, his life for most of this time has been restricted to lying and standing in a personal space roughly the size of an office lift."

The above is from the Economist, read the whole article here.

Recently church also raised questions for Chen's human rights.

Let's recap what Chen Shui-bian said when he was mentally fit to be interviewed:

"Soon after I became president in the year 2000, I made the decision to cut my salary in half. So, accumulated over the past almost seven years, I have saved the nation at least 40 million New Taiwan dollars. It is impossible to imagine that I would spend five years to collect more than 700 receipts just to obtain illegally about 14 million NT dollars and put that into my pocket."

The above Chen statement is from the CNN's Talk Asia in 2007.

Not to be missed is The ahBien story by a non-English-teaching professional resident in Taiwan.

Ironically, Chen Shui-bian, the former Taiwanese president, who is the youngest-person-ever-to-pass-the-ROC-bar-exam, is being jailed by the never-passed-any-bar-exam Ma Ying-jeou.

See this link for Chen's biography for his university years.  Scroll down to the section with alphabet "c".

"In June 1969, he was admitted to the National Taiwan University. Initially a business administration major, he switched to law in his first year and became editor of the law review. He passed the bar exams before the completion of his junior year with the highest score, earning him the distinction of being Taiwan's youngest lawyer. He graduated in 1974 with a LL.B. in commercial law."

Chen's struggle with Taiwan's GUPI (Guilty Until Proven Innocent) Court

On November 6, 2010 Chen was found not guilty in bribery.

So, nobody really knows why Chen has spent so many days in jail, and I bet the majority of Taiwanese do not actually know the judicial "details" of Chen's charges and sentences, this Jurist website gives some quick summary chronologically.

If one pays close attention, Taiwan's Taipei District Court first sentenced Chen to life imprisonment in September 2009, but later the Taiwan Supreme Court found out that they could not find evidence to support the accusation by prosecutors that Chen embezzled money from the "state fund" account!
See also Chen Shui-bian jail term reduced.

So Chen was initially sentenced to life without all the evidence gathering!  Judge Tsai Shou-hsun who initially sentenced Chen to life imprisonment only knew how to 死背古書而不會推理 recite old Chinese texts but didn't know how to reason.  He got away from incompetence, not penalized for reaching a sentence without full verification of facts while Chen has suffered being called a corrupted president who mis-used state fund.

"The irony about Chen Shui-bian’s legal battle is that it would have been thrown out of court and ended long ago when Chen was still healthy had it occured in the US."
See this letter to the Taipei Times editor.

And in Canada, and in Europe too...

While inmates are allowed to publish articles they write in prison, Chen was banned from publishing some articles by prison officials. Clearly this is not likely the decision of the prison itself, but of some higher ranking authority in Taiwan.
See Taiwan bans ex-leader from publishing jail article

A-bian’s trials show justice as political tool: academics

Chen Shui-bian's trial is a disgrace for Taiwan's judicial system.

It shows that human rights improvement and transitional justice need actions and not just a report.  Taiwan's justice system needs a total overhaul!


Excellent links for understanding Taiwan's justice system written by Brian Kennedy, an American attorney living in Taiwan.
See Judging the judges
See Taiwan's Criminal Justice System: Clash of Cultures

Courts must heed people's wishes

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