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Habeas Corpus Act amendment approved

TAIPEI--A legislative committee on Monday approved an amendment to the Habeas Corpus Act that would make it easier for a person detained by any institution other than a court to be brought before a judge within 24 hours.

The amendment, if passed by the Legislature as expected, would represent a “major step forward in the protection of human rights” by providing “renewed” legal relief for the deprivation of personal freedom, said Lin Chun-yi, head of the Judicial Yuan's department of criminal affairs.

The amendment is dubbed “the Good Samaritan” clause because it allows others to request a court hearing on behalf of the detainee.

It also requires institutions to inform detainees of their rights to see a judge under the amended law.

The institutions to which the amendment would most likely apply include the military and health and immigration authorities.

Chinese nationals arriving in Taiwan for family reunions and illegal workers are expected to be among the main beneficiaries of the amended law.

After the law is revised, cases like the one involving Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu can be prevented, Lin said after the session at the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.

He was referring to a high-profile case in which the 24 year-old conscript died of heat exhaustion in July after being wrongfully detained.

In the case of a quarantine of a patient suspected of having an infectious disease, the person can also ask for a hearing, which could take place via videoconferencing to prevent the spread of the disease, Lin said.

The person has to be set free if a judge finds his detention is not consistent with the due process of law, he said.

If due process has been followed, then the detention can continue, Lin said, adding that the main point is that extra-judicial authorities may not “just quietly keep a person locked up.”

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