The Ministry of Justice’s execution of five death-row inmates on Friday drew concerns and condemnation from the EU and various advocacy groups opposing capital punishment.
In a statement issued following the executions, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said she deeply regretted the execution and urged Taiwan “not to undertake further executions.”
Saying the EU had been encouraged by Taiwan’s de facto moratorium on executions that had been in place from late 2005 until last year, Ashton called on Taiwan to “put in place an immediate de facto moratorium on executions, pending legal abolition.”
The executions came less than a year after the ministry resumed the implementation of capital punishment in April last year.
Following the resumption of capital punishment, Taiwan is now once again “one of the very few industrial democracies to implement capital punishment,” Ashton said, adding that the EU considers the abolishing the death penalty a contribution toward the enhancing of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.
“It’s the EU’s view that the death penalty does not serve as an effective deterrent, and that any miscarriage of justice, which is inevitable in any legal system, would be irreversible,” Ashton said in the statement.
The German government also expressed concerns over the execution, with Taiwanese Representative in Berlin Wei Wu-lien (魏武煉) being summoned to the German Federal Foreign Office (AA), according to a press release posted on its Web site.
Marcus Loening, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the AA, said in the statement: “I strongly condemned the executions.”
Loening said he has always regarded Taiwan as a positive example of democracy and rule of law, but the worst thing -emanating from the execution was that Taiwan sent a very negative signal.
“Against this background, today the head of the Taipei Representative Office in Berlin has been summoned to the Foreign Office,” the statement said.
James Lee (李光章), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of European Affairs, declined to confirm or deny that he had been summoned to meet with German officials.
“That European countries raised concern following the execution was understandable as it has been their wish that Taiwan could restore a moratorium. We have maintained contact with them about our difference of opinion on the issue,” Lee said.
Lee did not elaborate what messages the AA has conveyed to Taiwan via the meeting with Wei.
Lee said Taiwan has been trying to make European countries understand that the executions were carried out according to the law, as Taiwan followed the rule of law.
As Taiwan is a country that respects human rights, it has been working toward reducing the use of capital punishment before a consensus is reached on revising the laws to eliminate the death penalty, he added.
Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) said on Friday that the latest executions were of people “who had committed atrocious crimes and who had killed between three and five people.”
He added that the five people executed had exhausted all possible legal avenues and “there were no reasons not to execute them. We had to deal with them according to the law.”
Unconvinced, Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director, said in a statement that “the Taiwanese authorities have repeatedly stated their intention to abolish the death penalty. But they have — yet again — acted contrary to their own commitments and against the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty.”
He said President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration had apparently not learned the right lesson from the execution of Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) in 1997.
Serving in the air force at the time, Chiang was accused of raping and murdering a girl and was soon executed. It was discovered last month that Chiang was actually innocent and that he had admitted to the crime under torture.
Only last month, Ma had to apologize for the execution of an innocent man, the statement said.
Following that so closely with today’s executions, however, shows a blatant disregard for the fallibility and irreversibility of the death penalty,” the statement, said, condemning Taiwan for failure to provide a “procedure that would allow people under sentence of death to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence — a right recognized by [the] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR], which Taiwan has legally committed to implement.”
The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, a cross-regional alliance of non-governmental organizations, lawyers and human rights activists from 23 countries, also released a statement expressing their regrets upon hearing about the latest executions.
Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty executive director Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡) said that since the ICCPR already enjoys the status of a domestic law, the legality of the executions may be called into question.
She said several other human rights organizations around the world — including the Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights and the International Commission against the Death Penalty — have contacted her to express their concerns and regrets and that many of them will likely release their own statements condemning the executions after gathering more information about the cases.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), who is known for his support of the death penalty, on the other hand, described the executions as “belated justice.”
He said he understood the dilemma of the government because of international pressure and the backlash from local civic groups, but said that if the government does not carry out executions, it will leave a bad impression on society and that it will not be fair for those on death row.
Wu expressed hope that the ministry would continue to execute death-row inmates and “complete the execution of all inmates this year.”
Entertainer Pai Ping-ping (白冰冰), whose daughter was murdered in 1997, said: “It is a good thing to execute them, because it helps to solve a lot of problems.”
“Isn’t it good for the government to save the money used to incarcerate them to take care of the underprivileged?” Pai asked.
After the latest executions, 40 convicts remain on death row, according to the official tallies.
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