Law professor Jerome Cohen announced his intention on Dec. 18 to form a study committee to review the human rights of former Republic of China in-exile President Chen Shui-bian. Cohen’s announcement followed his first-time visit to the hospital cell of Chen who is serving a 17-year sentence for alleged corruption. Chen was convicted in 2009 following a controversial trial.
Although Cohen enjoys an ivy-league reputation he labors under a heavy burden on this project to establish his credibility as neutral because of statements he published in 2009 about Chen’s trial.
Cohen, writing for the U.S. Asia Law Institute, called Chen’s trial, “the most spectacular trial in the island’s history.” Cohen was quick to pass judgment on the trial declaring, “It is not a political vendetta by the newly-installed government of President Ma Ying-jeou.”
Cohen accused Chen Shui-bian of “misconduct” while admitting to a number of serious flaws with the trial. “Overzealous attempts to keep Chen detained, persistent leaks of confidential information to the media, and a rogue prosecutor’s clandestine contacts with Chen all detracted from their seriousness. Unbelievably, prosecutors celebrated “Law Day” with a “skit” that mocked their detained ex-president for protesting against the unnecessary humiliation of being handcuffed.”
Cohen also noted the “unusual transfer” of judges in the case against Chen but still called the prosecution of Chen a “monumental demonstration that no one is above the law.”
Cohen is a confidant of ROC President Ma Ying-jeou who was his student at Harvard Law School. Ma was allowed to graduate despite submitting an error-ridden thesis. Ma’s thesis contained over 1000 typos, omissions, format errors, and footnotes that could not be verified.
Cohen’s announced study committee follows by a week the release of preliminary findings by an independent review of Chen’s case commissioned by Formosa Association of Human Rights. The preliminary findings concluded that the numerous flaws in the prosecution of Chen deprived him of a fair trial.
Observers are now faced with two conflicting views of Jerome Cohen. One, Cohen has second thoughts about his 2009 exoneration of Ma and now wants to dig deeper into the fairness of Chen’s trial. Two, Cohen is a tout for the Ma administration and wants to blunt the upcoming critical final report to FAHR about Chen.
Will the real Jerome Cohen please stand up?
Disclaimer: The author is a member of the independent investigative team commissioned by the Formosa Association of Human Rights.