Joint Statement on the “Alleged Unlawful Abuse and Torture by Taipei Prison in its Management of Inmates”: The Legislative Yuan shall Promptly Pass the Enforcement Law of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) to Prevent the Recurrence of Inmate Abuse in Prisons.
Judicial Reform Foundation, Covenants Watch, Prison Watch, Taiwan Association for Human Rights
On September 13, 2023, the Control Yuan officially released an investigation report stating that Taipei Prison in its management of inmates was suspected of unlawful abuse and torture.
Upon thorough examination of surveillance footage, the Control Yuan discovered that in April of this year, inmates appeared to have been subjected to physical restraint and assault by fellow inmates working as “attendants” while within the prison administrators’ line of sight. During which the administrators disregarded the situation and allowed the attendants’ abuse of inmates to persist. Further, additional surveillance footage captured instances of “an administrator kicking an inmate”. An anonymous complainant even stated that he was beaten to the point where he stopped breathing, lost consciousness, vomited blood, and thereafter had his arm twisted.
On May 8 of this year, the Control Yuan conducted an unannounced inspection of the Ai-San Dormitory at Taipei Prison. There it was discovered that self-defense equipment including stun batons, self-defense pepper sprays, and handcuffs were stored in unlocked drawers located in the security cameras’ blind spot, and of which were accessible by attendants. Further, there was no official record of the Ai-San Dormitory receiving such equipment. The Control Yuan pointed out that this situation creates a possibility where inmates working as attendants could gain access to these items, thereby posing a significant risk to prison security and order.
With respect to the serious matter of alleged unlawful abuse and torture by Taipei Prison in its management of inmates, the Judicial Reform Foundation has also received complaints from affected inmates in the past. These reports stated that the administrators at the Taipei Prison's Ai-San Dormitory, Ping-Er Dormitory, and other dormitories, permitted attendants to subject inmates to physical abuse, including beatings, twisting of arms, blows to the head, use of stun batons, and the application of pepper spray. In light of these revelations, the Judicial Reform Foundation, Covenants Watch, Prison Watch, Taiwan Association for Human Rights and other non-government organizations, solemnly and collectively make the two declarations as follows:
The Abuse of Inmates at Taipei Prison is not an Isolated Incident. Immediate Improvements by the Ministry of Justice and the Agency of Corrections are Required. Such Behavior shall not be Tolerated.
The present incident is not the first time an inmate has suffered abuse. During October of 2015, inmates were suspected of being tortured to death by unlawful use of instruments of restraint and unlawful form of restraint at Taipei Prison. In October of 2019, administrators acting together with inmates working as attendants were also suspected of torturing other inmates to death at Kaohsiung Prison.
The reoccurrence of inmate abuse at Taipei Prison this year clearly shows the responsible authorities have not fulfill their supervisory and inspection duties, and also highlights the human rights training for correctional administrators have not been implemented and strengthened. In this regard, the four-point statement by the Ministry of Justice and the Agency of Corrections is merely a starting point to address the existing problem. We demand the Ministry of Justice and the Agency of Corrections to examine the systemic issues within the correctional institutions, and not simply “add all types of surveillance devices and inspections” or “follow orders and have supervisors inspect and advise”. There should be external, independent mechanisms to fully understand whether inmates are being mistreated. Thereby protecting inmates' basic human rights and also foster a positive and safe working environment for law-abiding prison guards.
The Legislative Yuan shall Promptly Pass the Enforcement Law of UNCAT to Prevent Systemic Violation of Human Rights in Prisons.
According to the Control Yuan's press release, the alleged unlawful abuse and torture by Taipei Prison not only constitute a violation of the domesticated “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (ICCPR), but also of the UNCAT, which has yet to be passed by the Legislative Yuan.
The UNCAT emphasizes the need for states to criminalize human rights violations under a "crime of torture" to impose criminal penalties for violations of human rights. As well, the UNCAT provides for more specific and rigorous requirements for the investigation and remedy of “torture” and “other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” in comparison to current regulations.
While the efforts of the Control Yaun in the current investigation and clarifications thereof should be commended, to ensure improvement and supervision of human rights treatment across all prisons and other high-risk organizations in Taiwan in the future, it is imperative for the Legislative Yuan to promptly pass the Enforcement Law of UNCAT. A more comprehensive system shall be established based on this law, including the creation of “National Preventive Mechanisms,” and through regular and unscheduled visits and other measures, prevent the systemic violation of human rights.
Judicial Reform Foundation
Taiwan Association for Human Rights