Sun, May 02, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Executions were illegal: rights groups

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Human rights groups staged a protest outside the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) offices yesterday, accusing it of illegally executing four death row prisoners because the Council of Grand Justices had agreed to hear their cases.

“The executions on [Friday] night were illegal, because according to relevant regulations, execution orders cannot be signed when a case is under review by the Council of Grand Justices,” said Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠), chairman of the Taipei Bar Association’s Human Rights Protection Committee.

Four death row prisoners, Chang Wen-wei (張文蔚), Ko Shih-ming (柯世銘), Chang Wei-long (張慰龍), and Hong Chen-yao (洪晨耀), were executed in four different prisons at 7:30pm on Friday amid controversy over whether the nation should abolish capital punishment.

The prisoners were put to death “according to the law as the four were convicted of grave offenses such as kidnapping and murder, and multiple murders,” the ministry said in a statement.

It added that the executed inmates had not requested constitutional interpretations of their cases.

Until Friday’s executions, the ministry had not approved an execution since December 2005.

Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) executive director Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡) yesterday said her group had filed constitutional interpretation applications on behalf of all 44 prisoners on death row, but the Council of Grand Justices told the group they needed letters of authorization from the four people.

“I received the notice on April 23 that asked me to mail in the letters of authorization before May 3. I went to Chang Wei-long on that day, and he had his letter of authorization mailed out to me on April 26 and I received it on April 27,” Lin said.

She said that since the deadline was May 3, she had intended to wait until she received authorizations from all four before sending them together to the Council of Grand Justices.

“While the process was still ongoing, the ministry secretly executed the four prisoners,” Lin said, showing an enlarged copy of a letter of authorization signed by Chang Wei-long which asked Lin to file an application for a constitutional interpretation on his behalf.

“[Minister of Justice] Tseng Yung-fu [曾勇夫] said the applications for a constitutional interpretation [for the four executed prisoners] were invalid,” Kao said. “I would like to ask him — is it up to the Council of Grand Justices to decide whether an application is valid, or is it you, the minister of justice, who makes the decision?”

Lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Chthonic and anti-death ­penalty advocate Freddy Lim (林昶佐) said he suspected the MOJ did not announce news of the executions beforehand, as it normally does, “probably because the ministry knows it’s not acting totally legally in every detail and wanted to get it done first.”

Kao urged the MOJ to publicize all legal documents related to the four executed prisoners, including official notices from the Council of Grand Justices.

“As an attorney, I care more about whether all proper legal procedures have been completed, that’s my red line,” he said. “If that’s not the case, the minister should be held responsible for it.”

Taiwan law currently reserves the death penalty for serious crimes including aggravated murder, ­kidnapping and robbery. According to most public opinion polls, more than 70 percent of Taiwan people are in favor of the death penalty.

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