Chen parole has always been matter of politics
Wu Ching-chin 吳景欽
（Wu Ching-chin is an associate professor and chair of Aletheia University’s law department）
Translated by Ethan Zhan
TAIPEI TIMES / Editorials 2015.01.05
After evaluating former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) medical condition, the Ministry of Justice’s medical assessment team unanimously agreed that Chen’s medical condition was severe enough to meet the requirement for medical parole or care in the home. As long as the Department of Corrections approves of it and prosecutors issue the release, Chen can be released.
However, the Agency of Corrections said it would be inappropriate to extend preferential treatment by working overtime to expedite a particular case, even though Chen’s medical parole has always been given exceptional treatment; such rhetoric only exposes the authorities’ despotic recklessness.
According to Article 58 of the Prison Act (監獄行刑法), releasing an inmate on bail for medical treatment requires the permission of the supervisory authority, which, in this case, is the justice ministry. This regulation not only lacks refinement, it also deprives prisoners of the opportunity to voice their opinion.
According to Article 8 of the Constitution, only a court can impose restrictions on personal freedom. Hence one can argue that Article 58 of the prison act is unconstitutional.
Furthermore, considering the urgency of the need for parole, if it requires a complicated judicial process to determine if it should be granted, the urgency is unlikely to be met in time. Perhaps that is why lawmakers gave the power of decision to the administrative organs.
The ministry has always considered medical parole a benevolent gift, and therefore never truly appreciated the purpose of the law. In Chen’s case, the Veterans General Hospitals in both Taipei and Greater Taichung have been assessing Chen’s condition for more than a year, but because some legal cases involving Chen have not been concluded, the Taipei District Court commissioned Chang Gung Memorial Hospital to evaluate Chen’s condition to use that assessment as a basis to decide whether the cases should be discontinued.
All medical reports conclude that Chen suffers not only from multiple chronic illnesses, but also cognitive disorders, speech impediment, poor memory, etc, as a result of neurodegeneration, but the ministry insists that Chen’s medical condition is not severe enough to meet the requirement for medical parole.
After Chen’s request for medical parole was denied, the minister decided to play the role of a law professor, saying that according to Article 484 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), Chen could file an objection to the court claiming that prosecutors’ handling of the case was inappropriate.
However, prosecutors do not have jurisdiction over medical parole, so Article 484 is inapplicable. Instead, according to Constitutional Interpretation 691, an appeal can be filed with the Executive Yuan and then a lawsuit can be filed with the Administrative Court, which does have the jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter. The ministry’s mistaken instruction makes one question the minister’s legal knowledge and shows how misleading the process can be.
Chen’s medical parole case is and always has been treated as a political matter, which is why the problems that have surfaced within the prison management and system cannot be properly reviewed and fixed. Consequently, inmates’ human rights cannot be improved. Fortunately, although Chen could not return home to be with his family for the New Year holiday, it is likely he will be home for the Lunar New Year holiday next month. However, others in similar or worse condition whose requests for parole will not receive the same kind of treatment will continue to cry themselves to sleep in the dark nights of their imprisonment.