Frozen Trials: Political Victims and Their Quest for Justice

Before Martial Law was lifted in 1987, the Legislative Yuan passed the National Security Act prohibiting civilian cases tried in court martial from appealing to ordinary courts. In 1991, the Constitutional Court affirmed this legislation in its notorious J.Y. Interpretation No. 272, indicating that this was a very exceptional case, since the imposition of martial law had been maintained for over thirty-eight years. The stability of the legal system came first, and the Court had to defer to the Legislature’s decision. Thereafter, the government passed a special statute to reimburse the victims or their family members without overruling the original judgments. The government had taken 10,062 cases and issued monetary compensation of over 19.6 billion NTD. However, over the years, the victims and their family members waited for rectified judgments from the courts. The quest for justice, despite the country’s transition to democracy, has been delayed for thirty years. It was only in December 2017, that the Legislative Yuan passed new legislation to uphold the value of transitional justice. This chapter first articulates legal structure of the martial law period and then assesses the contours of the post-authoritarian governments’ endeavor to compensate the victims. Using the cases of the Simulated Constitutional Court, the chapter tries to analyze the critical shortcomings and potential benefits of Taiwan’s model of transitional justice.