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Taiwan: Move to Better Protect Right to Fair and Expeditious Criminal Trial

(Aug. 14, 2009) To prevent criminal cases from dragging on for decades, Taiwan's Judicial Yuan (one of the five branches of the government and the highest judicial organ) is drafting legislation on fair and speedy trials. The right to a fair and speedy trial is a right of all citizens of Taiwan, based on interpretations 446 and 530 of the Constitution, officials of the Judicial Yuan stated. (Judiciary Eyes New Law to Deliver Speedier Trials, TAIWAN TODAY, Aug. 6, 2009 [from CHINA TIMES], available at

Moreover, on May 14, 2009, Taiwan ratified the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Article 2 of the Law on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Taiwan's President promulgated, on April 22, 2009, stipulates that the provisions of the U.N. 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have domestic legal effect; article 14, item 3, paragraph 3, of that Covenant specifies that every criminal defendant is entitled to be tried without undue delay. In addition, article 9, item 3, clearly stipulates that anyone whose personal freedom has been constrained has the right to stand trial within a reasonable time period or to be released. (Id.; Judicial Yuan Actively Promotes Speedy Trials [in Chinese], Judicial Yuan website, Aug. 5, 2009, available at

The 16-article draft bill on fair and speedy trials provides that persons involved in litigation “should exercise their rights in good faith; that their rights should not be abused; and that there should not be any needless delays during the judicial process.” (TAIWAN TODAY, supra.) Cases lodged by public prosecutors as well as private citizens are covered by the proposed legislation.

The draft law calls for special priority to be given to cases in which the accused is being held in detention pending a verdict; they are to be tried “post haste.” To enable quick resolution of the cases, consecutive court sessions would be held if necessary. Once a court has accepted a case, it would have the authority to reject the indictment should a verdict not be reached “within a specified time period.” The latter is as yet undefined; two different versions of the bill put forward for public scrutiny propose either 10 years or 12. Two different proposals have also been made on the permissible interval between court sessions: less than 7 days, or less than 14. (Id.)

The draft states that once a court has rejected a previous indictment, prosecutors may not re-indict the defendant without new evidence or reasons. Nor may they re-appeal a criminal case to the Supreme Court if the lower court ruling on the case was delivered more than six years earlier “and if the Supreme Court has sent back a revised ruling on more than three occasions.” (Id.)