Sat, Mar 13, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Law demands executions, premier says

CONFLICTING VALUES Premier Wu Den-yih said the justice minister could not carry out her official duties while maintaining her personal opposition to the death penalty

By Flora Wang and Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday defended his quick acceptance of Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng’s (王清峰) resignation over a death penalty row, saying there was no room for any stay of execution while upholding the rule of law.

Wang chose to quit because she could not simultaneously uphold her personal opposition to executing any prisoner on death row and fulfill her official duties, Wu said, adding that he respected her decision and thus accepted her resignation.

“The Ministry of Justice’s approval and execution of capital punishment should not be considered ‘killing’ if [the sentence for] convicted prisoners on death row remains unchanged and is not controversial after due process has been completed,” Wu said on the legislative floor, adding that until the existing law is revised, death sentences handed down by the courts should be carried out according to the law.

Wang, who set off a public uproar on Wednesday with a statement that she would refuse to sign execution orders for the 44 inmates currently on death row, told Wu she would resign at around 10pm on Thursday. He accepted her resignation after reporting it to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Her resignation came as a surprise to many because she had said earlier on Thursday that Taiwan would become an international laughingstock if the justice minister lost his or her job for supporting the abolition of the death penalty.

On Thursday afternoon, the Presidential Office broke its silence on the issue by saying that death penalties handed down must be carried out and that any suspension of executions must follow the law.

Wu formally approved Wang’s written resignation yesterday and rebutted legislators’ allegation that Wang was forced to resign. Wu said he added a comment to Wang’s resignation, commending her for “working very hard.”

Deputy Minister of Justice Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), who also submitted his resignation, but had it rejected, has been named acting head of the Ministry of Justice. The interim head had also been nominated by Ma for state public prosecutor-general, pending confirmation by the Legislative Yuan.

“Wu formally approved Wang’s resignation, but asked Huang to stay and serve as acting minister,” the Executive Yuan said in a press statement yesterday.

One of Wu’s aides said the premier had asked Huang to temporarily take over Wang’s position because he is the only politically appointed deputy minister in the ministry. The other two deputy ministers are administrative deputy ministers and cannot take on the position of acting minister.

High-ranking prosecutorial sources said yesterday that it is rare in the nation’s judicial history for the posts of state public prosecutor-general and justice minister to be vacant at the same time.

The state public prosecutor-general position was vacated by Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明) who resigned on Jan. 19 immediately after he was impeached by the watchdog Control Yuan for dereliction of duty and lack of integrity.

“A major reshuffle in the judicial ranks is unavoidable this year,” the sources said, adding that they forecast Hsieh Wen-ting (謝文定), secretary-general of the Judicial Yuan, and Yen Da-ho (顏大和), head of Taiwan High Court’s Public Prosecutors Office, would be the two top candidates for justice minister.

At the Ministry of Justice yesterday, Wang maintained that she took the right stance as she packed her belongings and bade farewell to her colleagues.

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