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Statement on visit to President Chen Shui-bian

by the
Human Rights Action Center Delegation

Delivered: 17 SeTaipei, Taiwan pt 2012
Taoyuan Hospital
Taipei, Taiwan

I am Hans Wahl, member of the delegation from the US-based Human Rights Action Center here to examine the conditions of detention of President Chen Shui-bian. I am based in Paris and an expert in penal reform, conditions of detention and access to justice as well as an educator and long-time human rights activist. I am joined by Harreld Dinkins, a writer, advisor, and expert on East and Southeast Asia who joins me from Washington, DC. Mr. Dinkins will follow up with a statement in a few moments after which we will be happy to answer your questions. Unfortunately, Jack Healey, founder of the Human Rights Action Center is unable to join us on this mission due to a serious illness and his doctors’ instance that he not travel at this time.

This statement comes at an early stage in the visit of the delegation to Taiwan and must be considered as preliminary in drawing any conclusions and recommendations. At this point we have reviewed a body of reports, conducted some initial interviews and meetings and had the opportunity to meet with President Chen personally. We would like to thank the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Department for their cooperation in allowing this visit because we view it as essential in enabling us to draw clear and accurate conclusions from our mission to Taiwan.

While we do recognise the deeply divided and often polarised nature of the political environment in Taiwan, I would like to clarify that we have undertaken this mission without any political or partisan agenda. We are not affiliated with, or support any political party or political interest. Instead, we are committed to undertaking our assessment with independence, objectivity, and based on international standards of detention, the treatment of detainees, and principles of human rights.

We are not lawyers and not in a position to comment on the legal status of the case. However, I have worked in and with prison departments and ministries of justice in dozens of countries in all parts of the world to promote adherence to these principles and standards. As a result, there are a number of specific concerns that we feel we can raise at this point.

First, while we appreciate the increase the “out of cell time” from 30 minutes per day to 60 minutes granted by the Prison Department, that only brings President Chen’s treatment into compliance with international standards for the highest risk offenders in detention. In the absence of any evidence of violence while in detention or attempted escape, we look forward to hearing any explanation of the specific risks that warrant such harsh treatment.

Similarly, we appreciate that President Chen has been granted access to a desk in a nearby cell. However apart from his cell-mate, he appears to have no regular contact with other inmates and very limited contact with the outside world. He is not provided with opportunities to engage in work, exercise, or outdoor activities. This is also in contravention of international standards and only permitted for limited periods of time and in instances of the risk of violence, aggression, or escape. We would question the imposition of such a regime for any period in excess of a week or more let alone the entirety of four years.

Other aspects of President Chen’s prison conditions, such as having to sleep, eat, and write on the floor and the prevalence of dripping water, insects, and other sanitary problems are not normally of conditions found in modern democracies governed by the rule of law.

Finally, and most importantly, the conditions mentioned above as well as other factors of which we have not yet had an opportunity to examine, have contributed to, what appears to be a precipitous decline in the health of President Chen that is of grave concern to us. Though this was our first meeting with him, the fatigue, stammering speech, and shaking we witnessed have elevated these concerns.

The minimal and often hasty medical examinations that have been carried out appear to raise concerns over respiratory and circulatory problems. There are reports that a recent MRI identified a 4mm by 4mm liaison in the frontal lobe that might have been the result of a stroke that has remained undetected for months. However, since complete medical records and test results have not been made available to President Chen or his family a more complete understanding to these developments is difficult. Overall, there is evidence that the years of inadequate physical activity and movement have contributed to muscle atrophy and tendonitis.

It is a fundamental principle of international standards of the treatment of prisoners that imprisonment is itself a punishment and should never be used for further punishment. We question the circumstances under which an advance society economically, politically, and culturally would allow itself to sink to meeting only the lowest standards of treatment of those it holds in its prison.

It is often said that one can understand a great deal about values and principles of a country by the treatment of those within its prisons. Having visited with President Chen, learned of his treatment, and seen the profound deterioration of his health that has resulted, we look forward to hearing what measures the government of Ma Ying-jeou seeks to undertake to ensure the well-being of President Chen. We do not view this as a special privilege bestowed on him but rather a reflection of the government’s commitment to carry out its obligations within the framework of international of human rights standards.

We look forward to further discussions during of our stay in Taiwan, especially with the Office of President Ma, the Ministry of Justice, and the Prison Department who hold the capacity to address the concerns we have raised. This will enable us to learn more of the specific concerns and prepare a fair and objective assessment of this situation.

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「面會陳水扁總統」聲明

◎ 「人權行動中心」代表團

2012年9月17日發表
署立桃園醫院
台北,台灣

我是漢斯華爾,是設在美國之「人權行動中心」的代表團成員,此次前來實地了解陳水扁總統受到監禁情況。我駐在法國巴黎,是刑罰改造、監獄環境條件、及司法公義普及的專家,也是一位教育家及長期人權的運動者。這次與我會合參與這個工作的是從美國華盛頓DC前來的哈瑞丁勤時先生。他是一位作家、及東亞及東南亞地區議題的諮詢顧問與專家。狄更斯先生會在我之後說幾句話,之後我們非常樂意回答各位的提問。很遺憾地,「人權行動中心」的創辦人傑克希利先生因為行前身體嚴重不舒服,在醫師的限制旅行要求之下,無法成行來參與這次的任務。

這個聲明是本代表團到台灣訪談初期所記錄的,只是草案,不是最終結論或建議。到這個階段,我們已經閱讀過不少報告、進行了一些初步的訪談與會商、而且有機會見到了陳水扁總統本人。我們感謝法務部及獄政署允許面會陳總統,因為我們認為這是很重要的,只有這樣我們此次任務最後才能夠提出清晰而明確之結論。

雖然我們認知台灣的政治環境是深度分化及時常極端對立的特性,我必須澄清我們此次的任務沒有任何政治或政黨的目的。我們與任何政黨無關,也沒有支持任何政黨或任何政治利益。我們堅持基於監獄及囚犯待遇的國際標準及人權原則,獨立客觀的來進行此次評估的任務。

我們不是律師,並不適合對本案的法律問題做評論。不過,我過去在世界各地數十個國家的獄政單位及法務部門內工作或提供諮詢,提倡這些權責機關必須遵守這些原則與標準。這個經驗讓我們覺得在此刻已可對本案提出一些明確的關注。

首先,我們感謝獄政單位已經將放風的時間從每天30分鐘增長到60分鐘,然而,這只不過讓陳總統的待遇符合監禁最危險受刑人的國際標準而已。在缺乏受刑人有暴力或企圖逃脫的具體事證下,我們期待可以聽到權責機關對陳水扁總統必須採去這種嚴苛待遇的理由說明。

同樣的,我們感謝陳水扁總統被允准有一張桌子在臨近房間可以使用。不過,除了同房的受刑人之外,他無法與其他受刑人正常接觸,並且與外界的接觸非常有限。他也沒有工作勞動、體操、或戶外活動的機會。這也是違反國際受刑標準,這種嚴苛待遇只允許對有暴力、攻擊他人或逃脫之高危險受刑人短暫期間內使用。 使用期間超過一周已屬不當,更何況四年。

其他有關陳水扁總統受監禁的環境,例如睡覺、吃飯及趴在地上書寫,及長期存在的滴水、昆蟲與衛生問題,都不是在現代化民主法治國家的正常現象。

最後,最重要的,上述這些情況及其他我們尚未有機會看得到的因素,已經造成陳水扁總統健康的急遽惡化,這是我們關注的嚴重議題。雖然這是我們第一次與他會面,我們親眼目睹他的疲倦、講話口吃不清與顫抖,讓我們必須提高我們的關注。

目前已經進行之最少且急躁的醫療檢查已經關注到呼吸性與循環性器官的問題。有檢查報告指出,最近的MRI已經確認腦前葉有一個4mm X 4mm的陰影。它可能中風所留下來的結果。不過,這個 症狀幾個月以來未曾檢查出來。因為陳總統及其家屬都尚未得到完整的醫療紀錄與檢查結果,我們要完整了解這些發展還有困難。整體來說,事實證實,長期不足的身體活動與運動已經造成陳水扁總統肌肉萎縮及肌腱的退化。

受刑人待遇之國際標準的基本原則就是,監禁本身就是一種懲罰,不允許做進一步的懲罰。我們質疑在一個經濟、政治、及文化都是進步的社會環境怎麼會沉淪到只允許以最低的標準來對待監獄內的受刑人。

人們時常會說,一個人可以從一個國家對待受刑人的待遇中了解這個國家的很多價值與原則。在看過陳總統之後,了解到他受到的待遇,我們期盼可以聽到馬英九政府要採取甚麼方法來確保陳總統的權益。我們不認為這是對陳總統的一項特別禮遇,而是反映這個政府是否履行對符合國際人權標準架構的義務。

我們期盼在台灣這段期間可以有更多的討論,特別是馬總統辦公室、法務部及獄政署,他們都肩負對我們提出這些問題做出說明的能力。這樣就可以讓我們更了解一些特別的問題,並且對本案準備一個更公平與更客觀的評估報告。

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