Sat, May 29, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Legality of capital punishment upheld

DEATH ROWMinister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu said there was no timetable for carrying out executions, although a plan to prioritize them was under consideration

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH AGENCIES

The Justices of the Constitutional Court rejected a petition yesterday aimed at halting plans to execute the 40 inmates that remain on death row.

“The defendants are given the opportunity to defend and express themselves during the trial process ... There is no violation of the Constitution in the convictions,” the Constitutional Court said in a statement.

“The request to suspend the executions is dismissed, as the court declines to review the case,” the court said.

“Execution of the death row prisoners does not violate the two United Nations covenants that Taiwan has signed,” the court said, in a reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The covenants were passed by the legislature on March 31 last year and later signed into law by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

The petition was filed by the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, on behalf of the 40 death row inmates.

Taiwan executed four of the 44 prisoners on death row on April 30, the first executions to be carried out since December 2005.

The Ministry of Justice said the four men had been tried and convicted of “grave offenses such as lethal kidnappings and murder” and their sentences had been confirmed by courts at various levels.

The executions came five weeks after former minister of justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) resigned amid a political storm sparked when she declared that she would not sign any death warrants during her term in office.

The justice ministry yesterday said it respected the Consitutional Court’s decision.

The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, however, said in a statement it was saddened by the decision, which it described as “deeply regrettable.”

The non-profit organization, which has a team of volunteer lawyers, said it would make further comments on the judgment after it receives official confirmation of the decision from the Judicial Yuan.

Legal experts said the ministry could resume the execution of death row inmates at any time.

Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) said yesterday there was no timetable for carrying out more executions despite the court’s decision.

The execution date of the 40 inmates currently on death row would be based on the gravity on their crimes, he said.

In a meeting with the Chiayi District Prosecutors’ Office, the minister said a plan to prioritize the execution of inmates whose crimes involved brutal murders, including multiple deaths or killings within the family, was under consideration.

His comments came shortly after a report appeared in the Chinese-language United Daily News claiming that the ministry could carry out a second round of executions before the end of the year.

Taiwan reserves the death penalty for serious crimes including aggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery.

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