Wed, Oct 10, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Abolishing the death penalty is a step forward

By Yu Mei-nu 尤美女

Today is the 16th World Day Against Death Penalty. It is a day for Taiwanese to further discuss the issue of the death penalty.

The abolition of the death penalty is recognized as a positive human rights indicator by progressive nations.

There are 142 countries in the world that have either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice — that is, they have not carried out any execution for at least 10 years.

After more than two years without executions, it is a pity that Taiwan has not taken steps to join those 142 nations.

Instead, it chose to stand alongside China, Iran and other nations that have continued to carry out executions.

Although it is a fact that the death penalty does not fulfill all victims’ desire for justice nor can it prevent similar crimes from happening, the government continues to use capital punishment.

The topic of the gradual abolition of capital punishment has been on the table since 2002. During the 16-year period, the Ministry of Justice has authorized the execution of 56 death row inmates and Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) is still saying that abolition is a long-term policy goal.

Unfortunately, the nation has not made any progress toward achieving this goal.

The international community has witnessed positive developments with regard to Taiwanese democracy and its vibrant civil society.

A number of international human rights organizations, such as Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation for Human Rights, have come to regard Taiwan as a place conducive to holding important human rights activities.

This trend is a recognition of Taiwan’s determination to be a responsible member of the international community.

It also proves that human rights are the best way to strengthen our foreign diplomacy

However, Taiwan should still do more to embrace human rights values and the best starting point is to abolish the death penalty.

I recently visited Switzerland, which completely abolished the death penalty in 1999, and went to a prison that was later transformed into an assembly hall.

“For Switzerland, the abolition of death penalty was the starting point of human rights and democracy. All human rights must be built upon the foundation of abolition,” a tour guide said when explaining the history of the hall.

What he said is consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The right to life is the most basic and most important of all human rights, and it is meaningless to talk about other human rights when the right to life is violated.

A life taken by the state weakens the protection of human rights and can take away the key to understanding the causes of crimes and their possible prevention.

To make Taiwan a better place, it is crucial to immediately establish an official moratorium on capital punishment in line with the recommendations made by the UN Independent Experts in March 2013 following their review of Taiwan’s implementation of the International Human Rights Covenants.

It is an honor that the World Day Against Death Penalty and Taiwan’s Double Ten National Day coincide.

I sincerely hope that Taiwan will swiftly move forward on the path to abolition to become a true beacon of democracy and a human rights leader among Asian nations.

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