Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday accused President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of inaction on six death-row inmates’ amnesty appeals and the Ministry of Justice of being hasty in carrying their executions last month.
The Dec. 21 executions became the primary focus of a review of the nation’s implementation of the statutes in the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights yesterday in a special session of the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.
The six inmates appealed to Ma for amnesty on March 29, 2010, DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said during his interpellation of Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫).
However, Ma has been sitting on the appeals and Tseng signed the execution orders unilaterally without receiving a final presidential directive — a violation of the covenant’s stipulation that all governments avoid execution by all possible means, Tuan said.
“Ma’s inaction is why the ministry even had the opportunity to carry out the executions and commit the violation,” Tuan said.
Political scientist Mab Huang (黃默), a member of the Presidential Office’s Human Rights Consultative Committee, said at the session that the executions “would be interpreted by most experts as a violation of the covenant.”
In response, Tseng said his signing of the execution orders was in accordance with the law, adding that “if the president agreed to grant amnesty, he would have informed the ministry immediately after making the decision.”
On the issue of abolishing of death penalty, Tseng said that while abolition was a “long-term goal” of the government, the ministry never said that the banning of capital punishment was a “set policy.”
The minister said that the nine members on the ministry’s Task Force for Research and Promotion on Abolition of the Death Penalty — who tendered their resignations after the executions — have agreed to stay on the panel.
A delegation of 10 international experts is scheduled to visit Taiwan and review the nation’s implementation of the covenants from Feb. 25 to March 1, Tseng said.
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) criticized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for comments reportedly made by a ministry official that observations about the executions made by two experts who would be in the delegation were an “interference in domestic affairs.”
“There has not been any democracy that I know of that would have labeled comments related to human rights as an ‘interference in domestic affairs.’ Perhaps China and North Korea,” Hsiao said.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Ko (柯森耀) also said he had never heard any democratic country make similar comments.
Other concerns raised by lawmakers included efforts to amend laws to adhere to the two covenants, as well as the failure to address the rights of Aborigines and foreign spouses as stipulated in the pacts.
Though the government pledged to amend laws to adhere to the covenants within two years, 72 of the 263 laws have not been amended almost three years after the covenants’ ratification, Hsiao said.
MOFA has often cited national security issues to deny foreign spouses entry to Taiwan, she added.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Sra Kacaw (鄭天財), who represents Aboriginal constituencies, said the government has not addressed Aborigines’ rights to self-determination, property or natural resources.
Meanwhile, Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡), the executive director of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, accused Tseng of lying when he told the legislature that the Ministry of Justice had talked to the nine anti-death-penalty activists who resigned from the task force and reached an “understanding” with them on executions.
“Tseng lied when he said that the ministry spoke to the nine of us in private and reached an ‘understanding,’ and that we expressed our agreement with the ministry’s ideas on executions,” Lin said yesterday. “Aside from issuing a public statement on our withdrawal from the task force, the ministry never spoke to us in private and we have neither an understanding nor agreement with it on the death penalty.”
In related news, the Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday indicted Tseng Wen-chin (曾文欽), suspected of slitting the throat of a 10-year-old boy on Dec. 1, and recommended capital punishment.
Additional reporting by CNA