Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 3 News List

MOJ turns to PRC for inspiration on cutting executions

DPA , TAIPEI

The Ministry of Justice plans to introduce a "conditional moratorium" on the death penalty as part of its preparations for abolishing the punishment entirely, according to a newspaper report.

The United Daily News quoted Minister of Justice Morley Shih (施茂林) as saying that the ministry is studying the possibility of following China's example of issuing a "death penalty with two years' suspension" to give criminals a chance to repent.

"In 1979, China introduced the `death penalty with two years' suspension.' If the convicts behaved well during the two years, their death sentence could be changed to a life sentence and later changed to shorter jail terms," the paper quoted Shih as saying.

"We have asked academics and experts to study the possibility of introducing a `death penalty with two years' suspension' to prepare for the eventual abolition of the death penalty," he said.

But the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty blasted the ministry's plan, saying it contradicts President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) 2000 inauguration promise to abolish the death penalty.

"Under the measure of `death penalty with two years,' only those who have behaved well are eligible for having their death penalty converted to a life sentence. We demand a moratorium on all executions and the eventual abolition of the death penalty," one alliance member said.

Although Taiwan still hands down the death penalty, very few executions are carried out. The number of executions has dropped from 32 in 1998 to 17 in 2000 and three in 2005. There are about 70 prisoners currently awaiting execution.

Recent polling suggests that 80 percent of people oppose abolishing the death policy, but 40 percent would accept this if jail terms for criminals were toughened and conditions for parole tightened.

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