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Taiwan passes controversial new law to remove judges

The Taiwan Judicial Yuan [official website] President Lai Hau-min announced Tuesday a new law to remove judges, but critics argue the measure could destroy judicial independence. The new law requires [Taiwan Today report] that judges be evaluated every three years by a committee that will include two academics and two impartial people from the community to be selected by the Judicial Yuan from recommendations from the Ministry of Justice and Taiwan Bar Association [official websites]. The committee then recommends disciplinary action, if necessary, to an internal tribunal made up of five senior judges, which has the final say. Victims of a crime or parties in a case may also request evaluation of a judge. A similar 27-member committee made up of 12 judges, 11 Judicial Yuan members, and four outsiders will be responsible for reviewing the appointment, transfer, rewarding, suspension and dismissal of judges. But many critics say that the measure removes judicial independence [AFP report] because judges can potentially be fired mid-term. The law was passed in response to corruption in the judiciary and in the wake of judges acquitting alleged child molesters.

Taiwan has had increasing difficulties with corruption. In November 2010, the Taiwan Supreme Prosecutors Office indicted 13 people [JURIST report], including three High Court judges, on charges of bribery, corruption and money laundering. The three judges were accused of accepting more than NT $5 million (USD $155,000) from former legislator Ho Chi-Hui [JURIST news archive] in exchange for clearing him of charges related to a corrupt land-development project. Last August, the Taipei Prosecutors Office [official website] conducted raids [JURIST report] on the homes of several High Court judges and 18 other locations searching for evidence related to the bribery deals. The three High Court judges were arrested [JURIST report] on corruption charges in July 2010 and were suspended from duty following their arrests. The judges' indictments follows the Taipei High Court's acquittal [CNA report] of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on charges of embezzling USD $20 million from banks [JURIST report] that sought to protect themselves during Chen's financial reform program. Chen is also appealing a 20-year sentence for corruption and embezzlement.

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