Taiwan came under pressure from the EU, European Parliament members and Amnesty International, who said it has failed to honor its commitment to end the death penalty after it executed six death-row inmates on Friday, bringing the number of people executed to 15 in the past three years, following a more than four-year hiatus since late 2005.
In a statement released via the European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei late on Friday night, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said that she “deplore[s]” the six executions on Friday. She added that the action “goes against the abolitionist trend worldwide.”
The EU is opposed to the death penalty in all cases and has repeatedly called on authorities to establish a legal moratorium as a matter of urgency and to work toward abolishing the death penalty.
Ashton said the EU recognized the suffering of victims and their families when faced with terrible crimes and expressed its sincere sympathy to them, but that it believed that the abolition of the death penalty enhanced human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.
The EU also opposes the use of the death penalty because the sentence “does not serve as an effective deterrent” to crimes, and because “any miscarriage of justice, which is inevitable in any legal system, is irreversible,” Ashton said.
Ashton called on the Taiwanese government to avoid undertaking new executions, but instead to take concrete steps toward reducing the use of capital punishment to allow a de facto moratorium to resume.
Central News Agency reported from Brussels that Barbara Lochbihler, chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the European Parliament, said that she viewed Friday’s executions as a breach of Taiwan’s commitments.
In an e-mailed reply to the Taipei Times, Lochbihler said the government of Taiwan has repeatedly announced that it was willing to abolish the death penalty, citing as an example the policy adopted by former minister of justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) in 2001, on which former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) followed through.
“The International Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates in Article 3 that ‘everyone has the right to life.’ This includes presumed criminals and [convicted] criminals. Moreover, in December 2007 and 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted resolutions 62/149 and 63/168, calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty,” Lochbihler said.
Taiwan “breaks its international obligations” under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because there is no procedure in Taiwan that would allow people on death row to request pardon or amnesty, a right recognized by the treaty, she said.
Roseann Rife, East Asia head at Amnesty International (AI), issued a statement condemning the executions in which it said the executions “made a mockery of the authorities’ stated commitment to abolish the death penalty.”
“This is cold-blooded killing by the Taiwanese authorities. How can the government credibly claim it wants to see an end to the death penalty when it continues to conduct such actions?” Rife said in the statement. “It is abhorrent to justify taking someone’s life because prisons are overcrowded or the public’s alleged support for the death penalty. The death penalty is never the right answer and must never be used, including as a tool for crime prevention, repression or any other policies.”
Taiwan’s authorities have repeatedly declared their intention to move away from the death penalty and lead a public debate on it, AI said.
“Instead of offering feeble excuses, the authorities should deliver on their commitments to respect everyone’s human rights and move to end the use of the death penalty,” Rife said.