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Past injustice must be resolved, Yu says

Former South Korean president Kim Young Sam, left, raises a toast to former Polish president Lech Walesa, right, as President Chen Shui-bian addresses...

Former South Korean president Kim Young Sam, left, raises a toast to former Polish president Lech Walesa, right, as President Chen Shui-bian addresses...

Taiwan will not experience complete transitional justice until those responsible for the country's past human rights violations are held accountable for their misdeeds, said the ruling Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun (游錫?) yesterday in a gathering to prepare for an international forum on challenges faced by newly democratized countries.
"A blanket tolerance and exoneration for all the persecutors involved in various oppressive events would be an antithesis to the principle of justice," he said. To truly achieve transitional justice in the country, the DPP government must continue to push for constitutional reform, clamp down on ill-gotten party assets, and punish the specific individuals who are culpable in Taiwan's history of oppression, he added.
Yu's comments served as a prelude to the Global Forum on New Democracies sponsored by Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (台灣民主基金會). The forum, chaired by President Chen Shui-ban, will feature five retired foreign heads of states which include, former South Africa President Frederick Willen de Klerk, former El Salvador President Francisco Flores, former Poland President Lech Walesa, former South Korea President Kim Young Sam, and former Mongolia President Gombojavyn Orchirbat, will cover topics such as transitional justice, selection of a constitutional system, division of national and ethnic identities, and the role of mass media in a democratic movement.
The unpaid crimes resulting from the human rights abuse during events such as the "2-28 Incident" and from the "White Terror" era have severely hampered a smooth transition as Taiwan moved from an authoritarian regime to a democratic country governed by rule of law, the chairman said.
"Although some victims and their families have received compensation for their suffering, justice would not be fully served until the truth of these terrible events are fully disclosed," he said.
Assistant Research Fellow (特助研究員) from the Academia Sinica (中央研究院) Wu Rwei-ren echoed You's sentiments, adding that he fears Taiwan has already missed its "prime window" for transitional justice due to the government's indifference on penalizing the persecutors.
"The government has never truly gone after those responsible for the crimes. Many of the official documents pertaining to these events are still sealed. Forgiveness and reconciliation are virtually impossible until reparations have been made," Wu said.
The victims' animosity, which has been accumulating during years of ignored suffering, has unfortunately become a tool in the hands of self-indulgent politicians to be used in campaigns to incite further hatred among the different ethnic groups, he said.
Alex Boraine, director of the International Center of Transitional Justice in the South Africa's Capetown office said that countries on the cusp of democratization will undoubtedly experience the growing pains that accompany transitional justice.
Transitional justice, said Boraine, refers to the process that societies undertake as they shift from a period of oppression to a democratic system with an emphasis on the pursuit of justice and peace.
Transitional justice must encompass five major pillars; accountability, truth recovery, reconciliation, institutional reforms, and reparation, he pointed out.
Wu said that Taiwan had fallen short, as far as these five pillars were concerned.
Commenting on Boraine's remarks, Wu said, "What do we have here? No accountability, little truth, no reconciliation, and unsatisfactory institutional reform and reparation. I suspect what Taiwan needs is at minimum an account of transitional justice."
Another speaker, Andrea Sanhueza, the director of Coporacion Participa in Chile, said strong leadership is vital for any country experiencing transitional justice.
The government, she said, is responsible for striking a balance between penalizing the human rights violators while carefully assessing whether the current political climate of the country is conducive to holding the guilty individuals accountable for their crimes.


Updated : 2021-08-01 02:10 GMT+08:00