Thu, Mar 11, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Justice chief defends stay of executions

FALLIBILITY Wang Ching-feng said judges are ‘people,’ not ‘God,’ and the Constitution protects human life. She also said she would rather ‘go to hell’ than order an execution

By Rich Chang and Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) said yesterday she would rather step down than execute any of the 44 individuals on death row.

“I will not execute any of the people on death row during my term. I would rather go to hell,” Wang, a devout Buddhist, told reporters after publishing a statement titled “Reason and Forgiveness — Suspension of Practicing the Death Penalty” on Tuesday, in which she expressed her opposition to capital punishment.

Wang’s comments came after Vice Minister of Justice Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) choice for state public prosecutor-general, told a legislative hearing reviewing his nomination on Monday that while the 44 convicts on death row should be executed, he would support an amendment abolishing the death penalty.

Huang told legislators that those already on death row should not have their sentences delayed indefinitely.

No executions have been carried out in four years since former minister of justice Morley Shih (施茂林) and then Wang adopted a policy that maintains capital punishment, but has stayed executions.

The death penalty is the most dangerous penalty, Wang said in her statement, because judges are “people,” not “God.”

The “Hsichih Trio” case was a good example, Wang said, as different judges reached very different verdicts — a death sentence versus not guilty — with almost the same evidence.

“Those who kill will not be able to make amends with their lives. Executing them would only break more families,” Wang said, adding that she understood the great pain of victims’ families and that the ministry would do its best to compensate and take care of them.

Responding to criticism that a stay of execution was unconstitutional, Wang said the Constitution protects human life, and human life cannot be taken away under the Constitution.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said later that Wang should step down for failing to uphold the law.

“If Wang does not offer to resign, I will submit a malpractice complaint to the Control Yuan,” he said.

“I think that Minister Wang should resign immediately to campaign for the abolition of the death penalty,” Wu told a meeting of the Internal Administration Committee, where National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) was being questioned over the matter.

“Since the death penalty is still part of our legal system, Wang ­Ching-feng’s stay of executions is in violation of the law and the Constitution,” Wu said.

Wang Cho-chiun said that as long as the death penalty is written in law, “the 44 people on death row should be executed.”

However, Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), another KMT legislator, said abolishing the death penalty was a growing trend globally and that no matter who served as the next minister of justice, he or she should not sign any execution orders.

“Asking Wang Ching-feng to step down would be a waste of a good justice minister,” Hsieh said.

Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty executive director Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡) said: “The law gives the justice minister the power to decide whether to sign an execution order and does not place a limit on when it should be signed.”

“Wang Ching-feng was not acting against the law or the Constitution,” Lin said.

The minister’s decision was a responsible decision made in accordance with international human rights standards, Lin said.

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