Thu, Oct 12, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Anti-death penalty group reminds MOJ of abolition promise

BACKSLIDING The head of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty said he was disappointed that the ministry had bowed to public opinion on capital punishment

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members from various humans rights groups demonstrate outside the Ministry of Justice yesterday calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Yesterday was World Day Against the Death Penalty.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

An anti-death penalty group yesterday said the country has made progress in its goal to abolish capital punishment, as no convicted prisoners have been executed so far this year.

At an official visit to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) yesterday, members of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty asked the MOJ to keep its word on abolishing capital punishment and to spare the lives of the nation's 19 prisoners who are currently on death row.

Alliance convener Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源) told press at the meeting that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government and the MOJ promised in 2000 to end the death penalty and this year is the only year the ministry has not executed any prisoners.

Chiu said he was disappointed that the MOJ had recently suggested that Taiwan might not be able to abolish the death penalty soon, because a majority of the public believes that it deters crime more effectively than alternative punishments.

"There are a number of countries that take public opinion as an excuse not to abolish capital punishment, but most of those countries are not democracies," said Chou.

Citing an opinion poll conducted by the Alliance and released this June, Chiu said that while 76 percent of the people oppose the abolition of the death sentence, opposition to abolition drops to 44 percent if complementary measures -- such as setting sentence limits and a threshold on parole for life imprisonment -- are also raised as alternatives.

He suggested that the MOJ approach the question of public opinion from a variety of different angles.

After the meeting, members of the Alliance went outside to parade around the MOJ building, praying for the end of capital punishment.

According to the ministry's records, the nation's annual number of executions has been decreasing for years. Thirty-two prisoners were executed in 1998, a number that shrank to just ten in 2001, and only three each in 2004 and last year.

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