STAFF REPORTER of Taipei Times
Thursday, Nov 06, 2008, Page 4
A group of 20 Taiwan experts in the US, Canada and Australia issued a joint statement in Washington on Tuesday condemning the recent wave of detentions of present and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), calling them a serious violation of the rule of law and human rights.
The statement also warned that the arrests could signal an erosion of Taiwanese democracy and hurt Taiwan’s international image.
“Taiwan needs to move forward, not backwards to the unfair and unjust procedures practiced during the dark days of martial law” the signatories wrote, evoking the “White Terror” era when the KMT regime persecuted ethnic Taiwanese, killing tens of thousands of them and imprisoning many Taiwanese leaders and activists between 1947 and 1987.
Over the past three weeks, seven DPP members have been questioned, arrested or detained by the authorities, including former National Security Council secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), DPP Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen (陳明文), former minister of the interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) and city or county officials in Tainan and Yunlin.
Expressing their “deep concern” over the recent detentions, the authors complained about abuses by Taiwan’s judiciary under the KMT, including detaining the officials without charges and holding them incommunicado.
“The political neutrality of the judicial system is an essential element in a democracy. It is also essential that any accused [is] considered innocent until proven guilty in the court of law,” they wrote.
“We ... believe that the procedures followed by the prosecutor’s offices are severely flawed: while one or two of the accused have been formally charged, the majority is being held incommunicado without being charged. This is a severe contravention of the writ of habeas corpus and a basic violation of due process, justice and the rule of law,” they said.
The authors includes Nat Bellocchi, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan; Steve Yates, former national security aide to US Vice President Dick Cheney; Coen Blaauw and Gerrit van der Wees of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA); John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation; David Prager Branner, director of the American Oriental Society; and a number of top professors of Asian and international affairs at leading universities in North America and Australia.
FAIR AND OPEN
The group called on the KMT to deal with “any alleged wrongdoings” by the detainees “in a fair and open manner in an impartial court. They said justice through the rule of law is essential to Taiwan’s efforts to consolidate democracy and protect fundamental human rights.”
“We do not want to see Taiwan’s hard-earned democracy jeopardized in this manner,” they said. “It would be sad for Taiwan and detrimental to its international image if the progress which was made during the past 20 years would be erased.”
The group also complained that prosecutors have been leaking information that is detrimental to cases to a media that is largely supportive of the KMT or under its control.
“This kind of ‘trial by press’ is a violation of the basic standards of judicial procedures. It also gives the distinct impression that the Kuomintang authorities are using the judicial system to get even with members of the former DPP government,” the statement said.
During the eight years of DPP government under president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), several KMT officials were prosecuted for various crimes, including Ma himself, but the judiciary regularly dismissed such charges.
The statement comes just four days after FAPA president Bob Yang (楊英育) issued a letter making the same accusations against the KMT for the detentions.
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