Justice Examines National Systems, Also Reflects Social Inclusiveness / SDG 16 - Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Justice Examines National Systems, Also Reflects Social Inclusiveness 

SDG 16 - Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Original Article: Ms. Bai Yi-jiun

Sources: NPOst (http://npost.tw/archives/42538)

Translated by: Eden Social Welfare Foundation

Special thanks to: Yiling-Chan (詹宜玲) & Joseph Winkler (translation volunteer)

Last September, the Supreme Court ruled over a suspenseful trial in which they filed a petition for a different constitutional interpretation of “The Tama Talum prosecution.” In July 2013, an aboriginal from the Bunun tribe named Tama Talum, also known as his Chinese name 王光祿(Wang Guang-Lu), went hunting and killed a Taiwan serow and a Reeve's muntjac, Barking Deer. Talum was therefore arrested and sentenced to three years and six months in prison for violation of the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act and the Wildlife Conservation Act. However, the Prosecutor General filed an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court last February, asserting that the active Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act and the Wildlife Conservation Act do not regard for aboriginal hunting culture. The Supreme Court eventually filed a rare petition for a new constitutional interpretation to Grand justices of the Judicial Yuan. This case is still on hold pending the trial by Grand Justices Council.

This February, the former Taiwan national handball team player, 陳敬鎧(Chen Ching-Kai), was sentenced to one year and two months since he was accused of an insurance scam. The policy proceeds amounted to NTD 5.22 million he had received was also confiscated. This case has been litigated for nine years. Chen was injured in an accident in 2009 and he lost most of his vision. According to his diagnosis certificate from the Changhua Christian Hospital, he undoubtedly received his compensation. However, the culprit of the accident noticed that Chen was still very alive and well, living without any assistive devices, and was also able to take written tests and participate in athletic competitions. The culprit therefore accused Chen of “pretend-to-be-blind”. The High Court also accordingly determined that Chen still possesses of adaptive advantage of physical fitness and five senses, and also judged that the visually impaired certificates from nine hospitals are all invalid and inadequate to be admitted for consideration. Whether or not the ability for life of visually impaired people should be judged by the Court is highly challenged issue. Non-government organizations continued to file for the retrial.

There was another controversy three years ago in Taiwan, concerning the “Special Contribution Resident Certificate”of a foreign worker named 黃道志(Huang Dao-Chih) overstaying his visa. Huang Dao-Chih, also known as 阿財(Ah Choi), is from Indonesia and came to Taiwan for working in a private factory in 1987. Unfortunately, the factory went bankrupt and his boss disappeared with his passport. Ah Choi suddenly became an illegal resident. But he still stayed in Taiwan for 28 years without any identity until one day he was stopped by the police in 2015. Because Ah Choi had no household registration in Taiwan, he was undoubtedly going to be repatriated to Indonesia. But his friends and the lawyer discovered his many socially charitable behaviors during his more than 20-year stay in Taiwan. Ah Choi had been a volunteer lifeguard and also had subsidized the homeless. These deeds definitely make Ah Choi qualified for “Having made outstanding contributions benefiting Taiwan in the fields of democracy, human rights” and “Having made contributions to promote Taiwan’s image” from the regulation in Taiwan of The Review Criteria Governing Foreigners’ Permanent Residence Application. Thus Ah Choi finally acquired the Alien Resident Certificate in late 2015. He will also be eligible to apply for the identification card in order to become a Taiwanese citizen if he continued to stay in Taiwan for eight years after the application date.

The above three cases cross over three different types of underprivileged groups, including aboriginals, people with disabilities and foreign workers. They were initially living stable and peaceful lives; however, there were turning points which resulted from their situations and identities to forced them to encounter judicial inquiry and public concern. They all had a question, “what on earth did I do wrong?”

“If a Bunun man living without the guns will be mocked by his tribal people. I hope that we can keep our traditional culture. The government was asking us to inherit our culture but also arresting us. That is a contradiction.” said Wang Guang-Lu during the trial.

Ah Choi has settled down in Taiwan for 28 years and he was always behaving charitable and obliging during this period of time. While he was in detention center, he was only thinking “I didn’t hurt anyone. Don’t kick me out.”

And Chen Ching-Kai also declared that “Not only I, but all the visually impaired were sentenced. This sentence denies our effort to try to live in this society like common people and told us that those striving to live normally are not commendable,” after he was eventually judged guilty.

SDG16:Peace, Justice, and strong institutions

The United Nations (UN) adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. Sustainable Developments Goal 16 - Peace, Justice, and strong institutions – presents that all people under this goal can be free from fear of all forms of violence and can safely stay alive in their own way no matter what races, beliefs, sexual orientations, and so on they have.

Development Goal 16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions. The full objective of this goal is to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.

Targets in SDG 16 include the aim of physical safety and of judicial systems promotion. Targets for the physical justice include

16.1 - reduce all forms of violence and related death rates,

16.2 - end all forms of child abuse.

And Targets for the rule of law and inclusiveness at the national and international levels include

16.3 - ensure equal access to justice for all,

16.4 - combat all forms of organized crime,

16.5 - reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms,

16.6 - develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels,

16.7 - ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels,

16.8 - broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance,

16.9 - provide legal identity for all, including birth registration,

16.10 - ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms,

16.a - Strengthen relevant international cooperation to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime,

16.b - promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development.

SDGs 16: Peace, Justice, and strong institutions

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

“As a legal professional, while assisting indigent or vulnerable people, there will be a chance to inspect legislative defects of the active law,” said Chou Han-Wei, an attorney and a CEO of Legal Aid Foundation in Taiwan. The Legal Aid Foundation is a non-government organization which has tackled the above three pending cases based on the Legal Aid Act.

Chou Han-Wei also mentioned that through the spirit of the inclusiveness of justice in the SDG 16, we can help underprivileged groups obtain equitable living opportunities. “In my opinion, Justice and effective judicial systems are the most basic criterion in examining other sustainable development goals such as Goal 1, to end poverty in all forms, Goal 2, to end hunger, Goal 3, to ensure healthy lives, Goal 4 to ensure equitable quality education, and Goal 5, to achieve gender equality. By the emphasis on judicial equitableness and inclusiveness in the SDG 16, we could examine if these above goals are exactly implemented.”

Chou has practiced law for 14 years. At the same time, he also has served ten years in the Legal Aid Foundation. He mentioned that the Legal Aid Act was enacted in early 2004, which provides that “To protect people’s rights and interests, this Act is enacted for providing necessary legal aid to people who are indigent or are unable to receive proper legal protections for other reasons,” noted in the Article 1 of General Provisions.

Legal Aid Not Only Serves Underprivileged Groups But Defends Justice and Adjusts Systems

In addition to the “indigent” in the Article 1, there is another situation, “unable to receive proper legal protections for other reasons.” Chou explained that the Legal Aid Act does not only aim to assist the poor, but also to consider an equal access to justice. “Besides the economically disadvantaged, if you are incapable of seeking a good lawyer because of some social reasons, you are still protected by the Legal Aid Act. This is not only a concept of helping either those who are economically disadvantaged or in poverty, but another ideal like achieving social justice or adjusting social institutions.” He added.

 

Chou further illustrated that the Legal Aid Foundation, while initially established in 2004, noticed that people found it quite hard to claim bankruptcy at that time because the then Bankruptcy Act still stated that “it was reasonable to pay back the loan.”

The debtor who would like to file for bankruptcy was asked to prove that he could pay the creditor back under certain circumstances, then and only then would he be able to access to a judicial process. “That is weird. Besides, the financial condition in the past agricultural society is very different from these days, as well,” he said.

The Legal Aid Foundation consequently promoted the Consumer Debt Clearance Act, and created the “Consumer Debt Clearance Legal Aid Project” to assist debtors with excessive debts, or those they are not able to pay off. This kind of case is still what the Legal Aid assists the most.

“Debt Clearance basically meets certain sustainable concepts because Debt Clearance can make that person reborn.” Chou explained. Everyone may be at the risk of economic difficulties. Note that being in debt doesn’t totally mean poverty. For instance, if you suddenly suffer from a serious illness and need long-term care, even though you are not a poor person it is still extremely hard to afford massive medical expenses with an average income. “You will always get stuck in a debt cage,” Chou described.

The Legal Aid is designed for an equal judicial opportunity to make people suffering the misfortune obtain more reasonable treatments. The Legal Aid system also represents the nation’s promise or attitude towards these rights.

Justice like a mirror to reflect national system’s defects

As far as Chou, a legal professional, is concerned, SDG 16 is like a check point. The legal aid system is built to assist people obtain an equal access to justice, and also to inspect the active legislation defects leading to the exclusion of the underprivileged and borderline groups.

Issues that the Legal Aid observed reflects problems of our national legal systems. The Wang Guang-Lu, Chen Ching-Kai, and Ah Choi cases revealed that our active justice systems doesn’t understand much about aboriginal cultures, have too narrow a definition of the blind and show a lack of flexibility in lawful residency.  The SDG Report 2017 shows that violent conflicts have increased in recent years. People around the world are eager for more equitable and more accessible legal approaches. This situation also responds to an emphasis in SDG 16, the principle that the rule of law and development are mutually affected.

The sort and proportion of legal aid cases usually reflects the work patterns within Taiwanese courts on the whole. “For so long, after ordinary people have gone through this defective judicial process, we now think that our social system partially broken. The law should have broader perspective and be more responsible for becoming a more inclusive, peaceful and sustainable society,” Chou said.

Taiwan Legal Aid Act has been modified several times, and has expanded gradually to include the definition of those who can't be protected properly by the law. Besides economically disadvantage families, serious crime defendants, aborigines, teenagers, mentally and physically challenged people, debtors by the Consumer Debt Clearance Act, foreigners, foreign spouses, human trafficking victims and non-nationals, lawfully resident are also taken into account. Employing such a smoother legal access responds to SDG 16.3 “ensure equal access to justice for all”. Although these system improvements seem to benefit minorities, our society will therefore be more effective and easier to communicate.

People with dignity to achieve a sustainable society

Reviewing the huge framework of implementing judicial goals and justice provided by SDG 16, Taiwan has been practicing the concepts specified in the  International Bill of Human Rights since 2009, and has legislated to “Act to Implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”, “Enforcement Act of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women”, “Implementation Act of the Convention on the Rights of the Child” and “Act to Implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. Through domestication of international human right treaties which transcend the Taiwanese Constitution, we can further assure and examine the human rights framework in Taiwan’s active laws.

Chou reaffirmed that when judicial systems expand their inclusiveness to check the framework or logic of a social safety net, either sustainable development goals or the convention’s appeals can be a leading force to reach the target of “fundamental human need”. Once there are differences between our values, we still have a mutual objective. We have to try to accept and respect various opinions to make sure everyone has basic dignity, so that our society may develop more sustainably.