Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) confirmed yesterday that there has been no change in the government’s policy of minimizing, rather than abolishing, capital punishment.
“Our policy remains unchanged — the death penalty will be used as little as possible, but it will not be scrapped for the time being,” Tseng said during a question-and-answer session at the legislature.
While death-row inmates would definitely be executed once all legal proceedings are completed, prosecutors have been asked to minimize recommendations for capital punishment, he said.
Tseng’s statements came after the Chinese-language United Daily News said in a front-page story yesterday that the government had reversed its policy on capital punishment.
The Ministry of Justice has suggested in its first-ever human rights report that prosecutors refrain from recommending the death sentence for defendants, the paper said.
“The suggestion aims to minimize and even avoid the death sentence,” a ministry official was quoted as saying.
The daily cited the example of a case in Nantou County in which prosecutors on Wednesday recommended either the death penalty or life imprisonment for a man charged with killing four people. The man allegedly poisoned the four with a toxic industrial solvent in July. Usually, prosecutors would seek the death penalty in such a case, the newspaper said.
Commenting on the report, Tseng said that even though prosecutors had been asked to recommend penalties other than capital punishment, the ministry had consistently respected prosecutors’ decisions.
Asked whether the 51 convicts on death row would be executed, Tseng said the government’s stance remained unchanged because public opinion was still in favor of the death penalty, as various polls had shown.
The death row prisoners “will be executed once all the relevant screening procedures are finalized,” Tseng said.
The execution of five death row inmates in March sparked strong protests at home and abroad.
Citing ministry officials, the United Daily News report said it remained unclear when the next execution would take place.
“There is no timetable for the executions,” an official was quoted as saying.
Although the death penalty remains valid under the law, the ministry has been working to gradually limit the use of capital punishment through measures such as scrapping the regulations that list the death sentence as the only option for certain types of crime, the official said.
The Judicial Yuan is also planning a revision to the law that, if passed, would require the Supreme Court to conduct an open debate on any death penalty case, the newspaper said.
In its human rights report that is scheduled to be published early next year, the ministry is set to outline steps to reduce the use of capital punishment, the paper said, adding the ministry would invite overseas legal academics and internationally renowned human rights experts to help scrutinize its human rights reports and then refer the reports to other countries and the relevant UN agencies in the hope of upgrading Taiwan’s human rights record.
According to the ministry’s report, there are still nine acts that stipulate the death penalty for 57 types of crime.
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