France, rights group condemn executions

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 - Page 1

France has condemned the execution of six death-row inmates by Taiwan on Friday in the latest appeal from overseas urging President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty, which his administration ended in 2010.

A statement issued by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said Paris “condemns the execution of six sentenced to death in Taiwan [on] December 21, 2012."

France urged the restoration of the moratorium on capital punishment observed in Taiwan between 2006 and 2010 and called on the country to “open a national debate on the future of the death penalty.”

France, like its partners in the EU, reaffirms its constant and determined opposition to the death penalty in all places and in all circumstances, the statement added.

The executions came in the wake of the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution calling for the establishment of a universal moratorium on the death penalty, France said.

On Nov. 19, the General Assembly’s Third Committee — which addresses social, humanitarian and human rights issues — voted to adopt its fourth draft resolution, co-sponsored by 91 countries, calling for a moratorium on executions.

The resolution was adopted by a wider majority than ever before, with 110 states for and 39 against the resolution, with 36 abstaining.

Ma’s administration ended a four-year moratorium on executions in April 2010. The government executed four prisoners that year and another five in March last year.

As in the previous two years, Friday’s executions drew condemnation from EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the European Parliament Barbara Lochbihler and Amnesty International.

The international human rights group criticized the Taiwanese government for breaking its previous commitments to abolish the death penalty and failing to fulfill its international legal obligations under the UN human rights covenants of which it is a signatory — the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫), Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) and Presidential Office spokesperson Fan Chiang Chi-tai (范姜基泰) have said that the Ma administration never committed to abolishing capital punishment.

The administration has held the view that Taiwan’s ratification of UN human rights covenants in 2009 does not require it to ban the use of the death penalty, as the covenants simply encourage countries to move toward the abolition of the sentence.

Meanwhile, a Ministry of Justice official said a group of nine international human rights experts had on Monday confirmed that they would visit Taiwan in February in a letter to the ministry, despite disapproving of the executions.

In the letter, the experts also expressed their regret over the executions and said they would continue to pay attention to Taiwan’s human rights situation, said Peng Kun-yeh (彭坤業), head of the ministry’s Department of Legal System.

The main purpose of the visit will be to review the nation’s first human rights report on the implementation of two UN covenants.

Two of the experts — Manfred Nowak, a professor at the University of Vienna, and Eibe Riedel, a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — wrote to Ma last month asking him to guarantee that no executions would be carried out before their visit.

In light of concerns that the experts might cancel their trip following the executions, Tseng wrote them a letter on Saturday saying that the executions were carried out in accordance with the law and that the death penalty is widely supported in Taiwan.

Additional reporting by CNA