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  • Interpretation
  • No.624
  • Date
  • 2007/04/27
  • Issue
    • Is it contrary to the principle of equality to deny compensation to those who were wrongfully imprisoned as a result of military trials?
  • Holding
    •        Article 7 of the Constitution provides that all citizens of the Republic of China shall be equal before the law.  In enacting the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions, the Legislature gives the people whose personal freedom, life or property is infringed upon the right to seek compensation from the State where the State has enforced criminal procedure against the people in criminal cases and if the requirements set forth in Article 1 of said Act are satisfied.  The intent of Article 7 of the Constitution will not be fulfilled unless all those whose freedoms or rights have been infringed upon in a like manner are subject to equal protection.
      
    •        According to Article 1 of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions, where the State implements criminal procedure and thus causes damage to the people’s personal freedom, life or property that is recoverable by resorting to state compensation, such compensation shall be limited to those people whose freedoms or rights were infringed upon in cases that were heard by judicial authorities pursuant to the laws and rules of criminal procedure, but excluding those aggrieved persons wrongfully sentenced to imprisonment in cases heard by military courts according to the Military Justice Act.  The foregoing provision has thus discriminated against those people whose freedoms or rights were infringed upon in a like manner and who should be entitled to seek compensation for imprisonment without justifiable cause.  If an aggrieved person sentenced to wrongful imprisonment in a case handled under military justice laws and regulations is denied the right to claim compensation pursuant to the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions, the state of inequality suffered by such a citizen before the law would continue, and hence would be in violation of Article 7 of the Constitution. Although Point 2 of the Precautionary Matters on Handling Compensation for Wrongful Detention and Execution Cases as jointly established and issued by the Judicial Yuan and Executive Yuan (hereinafter referred to as the “Precautionary Matters”) is consistent with the intent of Article 1 of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions, the provisions thereof have denied those citizens subjected to wrongful imprisonment in cases handled under military justice laws and regulations the right to claim compensation pursuant to the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions.  As such, it is also contrary to the principle of equality.  In order to serve the constitutional purpose first above mentioned, in respect of those cases heard by the military courts subsequent to the enforcement of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions on September 1, 1959, a claim for state compensation may be filed according to the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions within two years as of the date of this Interpretation if the requirements set forth in Article 1 of said Act are satisfied prior to the amendment to said Article 1 or the enactment and enforcement of any law regulating the compensation for wrongful detentions and executions resulting from military trials.
      
  • Reasoning
    •        Article 7 of the Constitution provides that “all citizens of the Republic of China, irrespective of sex, religion, race, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law.”  In enacting the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions, the Legislature gives the people whose personal freedom, life or property is infringed upon the right to seek compensation from the State where the State has implemented criminal procedure against the people in criminal cases and if the requirements set forth in Article 1 of said Act are satisfied.  The intent of Article 7 of the Constitution will not be fulfilled unless all those whose freedoms or rights have been infringed upon in a like manner are subject to equal protection.
      
    •        The criminal procedures enforced by the State against the people in criminal cases are further divided into judicial trial procedures and military trial procedures in this nation.  The former is implemented by the judicial authorities under the Code of Criminal Procedure whereas the latter is enforced by the military authorities according to the Military Justice Act.  Yet the functionality and purpose of both are to carry out prosecutions and punishments against crimes.  The judicial trial procedure originates from the judicial power provided under Article 77 of the Constitution.  In contrast, the military trial procedure is enacted by the Legislature according to Article 9 of the Constitution, which provides, “Except for those in active military service, no person shall be subject to trial by a military tribunal,” because those who are in active military service are under a special obligation to defend the nation and a special criminal procedure against specific offenses committed by military personnel in active service is necessitated by considerations of national security and military demands (See Article 1 of the Military Justice Act).  Nevertheless, the powers of the military prosecution and trial authorities to prosecute and punish such specific offenses are also a form of penal power exercisable by the State, which, in essence, is part of the judicial power whose initiation and operation should not run counter to the constitutional rationales regarding the judicial power as embodied in Articles 77, 80 etc. of the Constitution.  Where such powers concern the restrictions of the rights of the military personnel, the applicable constitutional provisions shall still be followed (See J.Y. Interpretation No. 436).  Therefore, the judicial trial procedure and military trial procedure both criminal procedures do not differ in nature, and, hence, the injuries inflicted upon the people’s freedoms or rights in such procedures do not differ simply because the aggrieved persons are parties in cases tried under criminal procedural laws and regulations or under military justice laws and regulations.  The constitutional principle of equality will not be followed unless all such aggrieved persons may seek state compensation under the law.
      
    •        As described above, the Military Justice Act is a special criminal procedure law.  Article 1 of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions provides, “An aggrieved person involved in any case prosecuted under criminal procedural laws or regulations may request state compensation if one of the following applies: (i) he or she has been detained before a final non-prosecutorial disposition or judgment of acquittal is rendered; or (ii) he or she has been detained or served a sentence before a judgment of acquittal is rendered in a retrial or an extraordinary appeal proceeding (Paragraph I).  An aggrieved person detained by means other than in accordance with the abovementioned laws or regulations may also request state compensation (Paragraph II).”  The foregoing provisions are intended to define the scope of compensation claimable by the aggrieved persons whose personal freedom, life or property is infringed upon in criminal cases prosecuted under criminal procedural laws or regulations.  Although, by its literal construction, the law could have included the aggrieved persons wrongfully imprisoned in cases prosecuted under military justice laws or regulations, the legislators have so unambiguously formulated the scope of application and legislative plan for the law that the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions only applies to the people whose personal freedom, life or property is infringed upon in criminal cases heard by the judicial authorities under criminal procedural laws or regulations, but not to those people whose personal freedom, life or property is infringed upon in a like manner in cases tried by the military authorities under military justice laws or regulations.  As such, the said construction is not necessary.  According to the legislative history of the enactment of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions, the bill was first proposed in December 1952 and passed the third reading on June 2, 1959 (See the Legislative Yuan Gazettes, 12th Session, Vol. 4, p. 29, pp. 39-44; 23rd Session, Vol. 15, pp. 59, 72).  In light of the discussions and the process, the lawmakers’  intent was to give the people who are wrongfully imprisoned the right to seek compensation from the State where the State has enforced criminal procedure against the people in criminal cases and if the requirements set forth in Article 1 of said Act are satisfied so as to preserve human rights and protect the innocent (See the Legislative Yuan Gazettes, 12th Session, Vol. 4, p. 39; 23rd Session, Vol. 11, pp. 11, 29, 40, 48, 50; and Vol. 12, pp. 12, 39, 48).  Nevertheless, given the turmoil and commotion during the periods of national mobilization for suppression of the communist rebellion and the martial law, the lawmakers decided that it would be inappropriate to include provisions regarding compensation for wrongful imprisonment resulting from military trials in the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions in order to maintain military orders and military discipline and to adapt the law to the social environment of the time (See the Legislative Yuan Gazettes, 23rd Session, Vol. 11, p. 8; Vol. 12, pp. 6, 35, 37, 38).  Accordingly, the legislators decided that separate norms should be prescribed in respect of the compensation for wrongful imprisonment arising from cases heard by the military authorities under the military justice laws and regulations and cases tried by the judicial authorities under the criminal procedural laws and regulations.  Hence, when the said law passed the third reading, the Legislative Yuan resolved that the Executive Yuan should draft a bill in respect of the compensation for wrongful imprisonment arising from military trials and submit same to the Legislative Yuan for its review (See the Legislative Yuan Gazettes, 23rd Session, Vol. 15, p. 72).  In light of the foregoing, it is clear that the scope of compensation for wrongful imprisonment provided in Article 1 of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions does not cover the aggrieved persons wrongfully imprisoned in cases prosecuted under military justice laws or regulations.  However, the citizens are either in the military service or not.  Wrongful imprisonment in criminal cases may include both judicial trials and military trials.  Failing any justifiable cause, equal treatment should be given to the aggrieved persons in a wrongful imprisonment cases, whether tried by the judicial or military authorities.  Moreover, the applicable proceedings of a military trial were different from those of an ordinary criminal case during the period of martial law, were inadequate in their remedial functions and were not as sound as the judicial proceedings under normal circumstances in safeguarding the people’s personal freedom (See J.Y. Interpretation No. 477).  Therefore, it would be irrational to deny an aggrieved person wrongfully imprisoned under such proceedings the right to claim compensation.  Therefore, in light of the purposes of the system for the compensation for wrongful detentions and executions, if the legislators failed to give those people whose personal freedom, life or property is infringed upon in a like manner in cases tried by the military authorities under military justice laws or regulations the same right to claim compensation as those people whose personal freedom, life or property is infringed upon in cases prosecuted under the criminal procedural laws or regulations, there should be hardly any justifiable cause and the constitutional principle of equality would hence be violated.
      
    •        It should be noted that a separate law that should govern the compensation for wrongful imprisonment arising from military trials has yet to be enacted. Consequently, whether in military service or not, those who had suffered wrongful imprisonment had no legal basis whatsoever to seek state compensation from September 1, 1959, when the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions came into effect, till June 30, 1981.  Although, as of July 1, 1981, state compensation could be sought pursuant to Article 12 of the State Compensation Act, which provides, “If an employee of the Government having the duty of a trial judge or a prosecutor infringes upon the freedoms or rights of persons while acting within the scope of his or her office or employment, and is adjudicated to have committed a crime when he or she performed the duty of trial or prosecution, the provisions of this Act shall apply,” the requirements for seeking compensation as set forth in said article are apparently stricter than those set forth in Article 1 of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions.  As a result, it is exceedingly difficult for a person suffering wrongful imprisonment due to a case prosecuted under the military justice laws and regulations to claim state compensation.  In contrast to those who were wrongfully imprisoned in cases prosecuted under the criminal procedural laws and regulations, it is clearly unjustified discrimination.  If an aggrieved person wrongfully imprisoned in a case prosecuted under the military justice laws and regulations still could not claim compensation under the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions, the inequality before the law would continue for such a person.  In this sense, it is contrary to the intent of Article 7 of the Constitution.  As for the aforesaid Precautionary Matters as jointly established and issued by the Judicial Yuan and Executive Yuan, they are an interpretative administrative regulation ex officio established by the competent authorities for the purpose of applying the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions.  Point 2 thereof provides, “The aggrieved person referred to in Article 1-I of the Act is either a defendant detained by the judicial authorities pursuant to the criminal procedural laws and regulations or a convicted person upon final judgment who has experienced the situation described in Subparagraph 1 or 2 of said Paragraph.  The aggrieved person referred to in Paragraph II thereof is one who is detained by means other than in accordance with the criminal procedural laws or regulations; provided that the court shall have jurisdiction over the cases concerned.”  Although the said article is consistent with the intent of Article 1 of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions, the provisions thereof have denied the aggrieved persons subjected to wrongful imprisonment in cases handled under military justice laws and regulations the right to claim compensation pursuant to the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions.  As such, it is also contrary to the principle of equality.
      
    •        Despite the legislative discretion exercisable by the lawmakers, in order to serve the constitutional purpose first above mentioned, in respect of those cases heard by the military courts subsequent to the enforcement of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions on September 1, 1959, a claim for state compensation may be filed according to the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions if the requirements set forth in Article 1 of said Act are satisfied prior to the amendment to said Act or the enactment and enforcement of any law regulating the compensation for wrongful detentions and executions resulting from military trials.  The two-year statute of limitations set forth in Article 11 of said Act should start to run as of the date of this Interpretation.  Article 4-I of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions provides, “The authorities issuing the original disposition or rendering the judgment of acquittal shall have jurisdiction over the claims for compensation for wrongful imprisonment; provided, however, that any claim made pursuant to Article 1-II shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the competent district court.”  Also, Point 5 of the Precautionary Matters merely provides that the ordinary court or prosecutor’s office shall have jurisdiction over the claims for compensation for wrongful imprisonment.  Upon the issuance of this Interpretation, said jurisdictional provision would no longer be adequate.  In respect of the claims for compensation for wrongful imprisonment resulting from cases prosecuted under the military justice laws and regulations, since the military prosecutor’s offices or tribunals issuing the original disposition or rendering the judgment of acquittal were either dissolved or reorganized when the Military Justice Act was amended on October 2, 1999, the respective military prosecutor’s offices or courts which assumed their duties shall hence have jurisdiction over said claims.  As for the organization of the first instance, methods of decision-making and the service of the written decisions, the applicable provisions of the Military Justice Act may apply mutatis mutandis based on the intent of Points 13 and 14 of the Precautionary Matters.  Once the relevant laws and regulations are amended or enacted, the aforesaid procedural matters shall be handled in accordance with such amended or enacted laws or regulations.
      
    •        In addition, Article 17-IV of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions provides, “If an aggrieved person has been compensated for the same cause through other legal means, the compensated amount so received shall be deducted from the compensation payment awarded under this Act.”  The provisions of Article 6 of the Act Governing the Redress of Damages Inflicted on Individual Rights during the Period of Martial Law, Article 15-1(iii) of the Act of Compensation for Wrongfully Handled Rebellion and Communist Espionage Cases during the Period of Martial Law, and Article 2 of the Act Governing the Handling of and Compensation for the 228 Incident partially merge with Article 1 of the Act of Compensation for Wrongful Detentions and Executions.  Where a person commits any offense against internal or external security or any offense proscribed by the Punishment for Betrayers Act, or Anti-Communist Espionage Act, he or she shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the military tribunal according to Article 8 of the Martial Law and Article 2 of the Regulation Governing the Division of the Power of Adjudication between Military Courts and Ordinary Courts during the Period of Martial Law in the Taiwan Area (as repealed by the Executive Yuan on July 15, 1987 ).  It should also be noted that, as of the date of this Interpretation, the relevant provisions described above shall be heeded when handling the claims for compensation for wrongful imprisonment resulting from military trials based on the intent hereof so as to avoid double indemnity or compensation for identical cause and facts.
      
    • *Translated by Vincent C. Kuan.
      
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