Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were no reports that authorities or their agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution stipulates that no violence, threat, inducement, fraud, or other improper means should be used against accused persons, and there were no reports that officials employed these practices.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
There were no significant reports of prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns about physical conditions or inmate abuse in prisons and detention centers.
Administration: Prison authorities investigated claims of inhumane conditions and released the results of their investigations to judicial authorities and occasionally to the press. Authorities investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.
During the active investigation phase of their cases, authorities deprived a small number of detainees of visitation rights, on court order, although these detainees retained access to legal counsel.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities allowed independent nongovernmental observers to investigate prison conditions.
Improvements: To ease overcrowding, the Ministry of Justice allowed inmates to work outside prison during the day. From January to September, prison authorities allowed 454 inmates to work outside of prison. They received monthly salaries of no less than 21,000 New Taiwan dollars (NT$) ($684). Prison authorities allocated 62.5 percent of the inmates’ income to improving prison conditions, skills training for inmates, and compensating crime victims.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and relevant laws prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and provide for the right of defendants to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The National Police Administration (NPA) of the Ministry of the Interior has administrative jurisdiction over all police units. Central authorities appoint city and county police commissioners. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the NPA, and those authorities had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.
To address injustices committed during Taiwan’s authoritarian era, the ruling party passed the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice in December 2017. The law defines the authoritarian era as running from August 1945 to November 1992. The Executive Yuan set up the Transitional Justice Commission in May in accordance with the law.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law requires a warrant or summons, except when there is sufficient reason to believe the suspect may flee, or in urgent circumstances, as specified in the code of criminal procedures. Courts have judicial discretion to release indicted persons on bail. Prosecutors must apply to the courts within 24 hours after arrest for permission to continue detaining an arrestee. Authorities generally observed these procedures, and trials usually took place within three months of indictment. Prosecutors may apply to a court for approval of pretrial detention of an unindicted suspect for a maximum of two months, with one possible two-month extension. Courts may request pretrial detention in cases in which the potential sentence is five years or more and when there is a reasonable concern the suspect could flee, collude with other suspects or witnesses, or tamper with or destroy material evidence.
Legislation came into effect on January 1 that allows defendants and their lawyers access to case files and evidence while in pretrial detention. Previously, the accused and defense lawyers could only examine case files during the trial and were unable to obtain detailed information about the legal grounds of a pretrial detention. The amended law also stipulates that defendants must be assisted by a lawyer while in detention. For those who cannot afford to hire one, a public defender will be appointed. Another amendment specifies that suspects may no longer be interrogated late at night.
The judicial branch (Judicial Yuan) and the NPA operated a program to provide legal counsel during initial police questioning of indigenous suspects, qualifying indigent suspects who have a mental disability, or persons charged with a crime punishable by three or more years in prison. Detained persons may request the assistance of the Legal Aid Foundation (LAF), a publicly funded independent statutory organization that provides professional legal assistance through its 22 branch offices to persons who might not otherwise have legal representation. During regular consultations with police and when participating in police conferences, LAF officials remind police of their obligation to notify suspects of the existence of such counseling; the new amendments mentioned above were designed to address such concerns about access to counsel. Authorities can detain a suspect without visitation rights, except by legal counsel, or hold a suspect under house arrest based on a prosecutor’s recommendation and court decision. The law affords the right of compensation to those whom police have unlawfully detained.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Some political commentators and academics, however, publicly questioned the impartiality of judges and prosecutors involved in high profile, politically sensitive cases. Judicial reform advocates pressed for greater public accountability, reforms of the personnel system, and other procedural improvements.
President Tsai convened a National Congress on Judicial Reform in 2017 to consider reform recommendations on issues of most concern to the public. These included: protecting the rights of crime victims and disadvantaged and marginalized groups; promoting a credible, fair, and professional judicial system; improving judicial accountability and efficiency; and enhancing judicial transparency and public participation. Based on the conclusions and recommendations of the congress, the Judicial Yuan and the Ministry of Justice proposed several bills and sent them to the legislature for review.
The judicial system included options, beyond appeal, for rectifying an injustice. In a high-profile retrial in August, former convict Su Pin-kun, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison on robbery and attempted murder charges in 1987 and received a presidential pardon in 2000, cleared his name after a 32-year legal battle.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
By law, when any authority arrests or detains a person without a court order, any person, including the arrestee or detainee, may petition a court of justice having jurisdiction for a writ of habeas corpus, and the case must be brought before a judge within 24 hours. The law also requires agencies to inform detainees of their right to see a judge for a writ of habeas corpus. Detaining authorities who violate the law may face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to NT$100,000 ($3,260).
All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. They also have the right to an attorney and to be present at trial. Trials are public, although court permission may be required to attend trials involving juveniles or potentially sensitive issues that might attract crowds. Judges decide cases; all judges receive appointments from and answer to the Judicial Yuan. A single judge, rather than a defense attorney or prosecutor, typically interrogates parties and witnesses. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of charges, hire an attorney of their choice or have one provided, prepare a defense, confront witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence. Defendants have the right to free interpretation service, if needed, from the moment charged through all appeals.
To enhance the transparency of the judicial process, the Legislative Yuan approved an amendment to the Organic Act of the Courts in May requiring prosecutors to release the details of indictments to the public, but only after the court concludes the first trial and announces the verdict. Previously, prosecutors could only share the bill of indictment with defendants and court officials and report on the general charges contained in an indictment in high-profile cases.
By law a suspect may not be compelled to testify and a confession may not be the sole evidence used to find a defendant guilty. All convicted persons have the right to appeal to the next two higher court levels. The law extends the above rights to all suspects and convicted persons.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters. Administrative remedies are available in addition to judicial remedies for alleged wrongdoing, including human rights violations.
In August 2018 and November 2017, the High Court awarded former death row inmates Cheng Tsing-tse and Hsu Tzu-chiang NT$17 million ($554,000) and NT$28 million ($912,000), respectively, in compensation for wrongful convictions. Cheng spent 14 years in prison before his acquittal in October 2017. Hsu was found not guilty in 2016 in the ninth retrial of his case, after he had spent two decades on death row.
The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and authorities generally implemented the law effectively. There were reports of official corruption during the year. As of June, 20 ranking officials, 53 mid-level, 73 low-level, and 11 elected people’s deputies had been indicted for corruption.
Corruption: The Ministry of Justice and its subordinate Agency against Corruption are in charge of combating official corruption. The ministry received sufficient resources and collaborated with civil society within the scope of the law. Some legal scholars and politicians said the justice ministry was insufficiently independent and conducted politically motivated investigations of politicians. The Control Yuan is responsible for impeachment of officials in cases of wrongdoing.
A prominent case in March involving the Judicial Yuan’s Court of the Judiciary, which disciplines judicial officers for misconduct, highlighted the need for reform to improve public confidence in judges. In a controversial second trial of a judge convicted of sexually harassing his female assistant and impeached by the Control Yuan for the same offense, the court allowed the judge to retain his position after paying a fine. The second ruling drew condemnation from the public and lawmakers, who accused the judiciary of covering up the misdeeds of a fellow judge and demanded that the Legislative Yuan amend the Judges Act to introduce external members to the Court of the Judiciary to improve its transparency. The Control Yuan also decided to appeal the second ruling.
In July the Supreme Court upheld corruption charges against former Yunlin County Magistrate Chang Jung-wei, ending a legal battle that lasted 14 years. The court sentenced Chang to eight years in prison and deprived him of civil rights for four years. Chang was found guilty of taking NT$30 million ($977,000) in bribes in connection with a county government incinerator project.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires specific appointed and elected officials to disclose their income and assets to the Control Yuan, which makes the disclosures public. Those making false declarations with the intent to conceal properties are subject to a fine ranging from NT$200,000 to NT$4.0 million ($6,510 to $130,000). The law also requires civil servants to account for abnormal increases in their assets and makes failure to do so a punishable offense, and there are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.
In May lawmakers also approved amendments to the Act on Recusal of Public Servants Due to Conflicts of Interest that added legislators’ assistants to the category of elected and politically appointed officials covered by the law.
The amended Money Laundering Control Act, which became effective in 2017, stipulates 18 categories of politically exposed persons (PEPs) subject to strict oversight for money laundering activities. The PEPs include the president, vice president, heads of the central and local governments, legislators, and leadership of state-owned enterprises, as well as family members and close associates of PEPs.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Authorities were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.