Incoming Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) said yesterday the ministry would consider the possibility of abolishing capital punishment, but that she must respect the law when dealing with the 29 individuals who remain on death row.
The last execution was more than two years ago.
“It is very, very difficult, but I will face it and try not to avoid it,” Wang told a press conference on her first day as minister.
“We must adhere to the law and deal with the individuals on death row,” she said.
But Wang said she had no idea how to address the matter.
The Democratic Progressive Party government said in 2000 it would abolish the death penalty, but the ministry said it was not able to do so because a majority of Taiwanese still believe that capital punishment is the most effective means of deterring serious crime.
As a former attorney and social activist, Wang said the abolishment of capital punishment was increasingly being pursued globally. She said, however, that close to 80 percent of people opposed abolishing the death penalty.
The opposition dropped to about 40 percent, however, if additional measures — such as setting sentence limits and a threshold on parole for life imprisonment — were put on the table.
She said the ministry would study the complementary measures along with the possibility of abolishing the death penalty.
Wang said that maintaining the death penalty also had repercussions for the nation’s image abroad.
Ministry figures showed that the number of executions has decreased for years. Thirty-two prisoners were executed in 1998, a number that shrank to 10 in 2001 and three each year between 2004 and 2006.
In related news, the Chinese-language Liberty Times, (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) reported yesterday that Prosecutor Wu Wen-chung (吳文忠) of the Supreme Court Prosecutors Office’s Special Investigation Panel had said on Tuesday that “[former president] Chen Shui-bian [陳水扁] should be executed” while chatting with reporters after a press conference.
Wang said yesterday it was very inappropriate for Wu to make such a remark and asked the Supreme Prosecutors Office to investigate the matter.
Wu denied the report yesterday, saying he was joking.
“I said the individuals on death row should be executed, not Chen,” he said.