Tue, Oct 02, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The risk to Taiwan from executions

By Keir Starmer Saul Lehrfreund

Furthermore, there are the many unanswered questions about Lee’s case that make it sit so uncomfortably with a commitment to abolition, including that his original sentence of life imprisonment was increased to death on appeal, the lingering and serious concerns as to Lee’s mental health and his apparent unwillingness to appeal or seek clemency.

The issues specific to Lee’s case simply compound the general issues with the death penalty well understood by abolitionist governments and advocates around the world. It has repeatedly been made clear that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime. Moreover, wrongful convictions and executions remain a problem wherever the death penalty still exists — including in Taiwan.

Indeed, just one day before Lee’s execution, the High Court awarded a record settlement to a wrongfully convicted former death row prisoner who had spent more than a than a decade in prison.

We know the government takes its most solemn responsibility, to protect its citizens, just as seriously as every other like-minded democracy does. Yet it still maintains laws that put innocent lives at risk. So while we appreciate that the justice system allows for the correction of error, we cannot help but note the contradiction between accepting that a man was almost wrongfully executed and the next day carrying out an execution.

We return to Taiwan today and again have the privilege of meeting with members of the government and civic society.

Despite our disappointment over the government’s decision to execute Lee, we are conscious of Taiwan’s progress in other areas of human rights and remain optimistic that Taiwan will ultimately become a beacon for human rights in this region, its light undimmed by cruel practice and inhumane laws.

Necessary to this is a return to a moratorium on executions, and ultimately abolition. We look forward to working together with the government to achieve this critical aim.

Keir Starmer is a board member of the London-based Death Penalty Project. Saul Lehrfreund is executive director of the Death Penalty Project.

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