Tue, Mar 29, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Activists criticize the government over executions

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

Anti-death penalty advocacy groups including Amnesty International and the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty yesterday accused the government of failing to act to abolish capital punishment in accordance with two international human rights covenants ratified by the government, adding that countries that retained the death penalty were increasingly isolated.

“The death penalty is not a way to maintain ‘justice,’” Lin Shu-ya (林淑雅), a board member of Amnesty International Taiwan, told a press conference in Taipei after the organization published its Death Penalty in 2010 report, an annual report on executions, abolitions and moratoriums on capital punishment around the world released by all of Amnesty International’s chapters at the same time.

“The death penalty is not a way to maintain justice, because despite legal requirements to do so, many defendants are not given proper legal assistance and judges, in many cases, do not consider defendants innocent until they are proven guilty,” Lin said. “What happened to Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) was a perfect example.”

An air force serviceman, Chiang was accused of having sexually assaulted and murdered a young girl at an air force base in Taipei in 1996 and he was executed the following year. An investigation concluded in January determined that Chiang did not commit the crime and that he had admitted to it after being physically tortured and verbally threatened at the hands of his superiors.

It was also discovered that some of the evidence that could have helped prove Chiang’s innocence was ignored during his trial.

Taiwan had a four-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty prior to four executions that were carried out last year, followed by five more this month.

Amnesty International Taiwan deputy director Yang Tsung-li (楊宗澧) said that since Taiwan has ratified the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and adopted legislation to grant the two international covenants the status of domestic laws, it should abide by them and take steps to suspend executions.

Deputy convener of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠) called the executions illegal “since the executed prisoners acted according to the covenants and applied for amnesty, but Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) signed execution orders before President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had been able to react to the applications.”

“TAEDP requested a constitutional interpretation on behalf of some of the prisoners on death row to determine whether the death penalty is unconstitutional,” Kao said. “The Council of Grand Justices declined to hear the case ... They have become a laughing stock the world over.”

The report said that 139 countries had abolished the death penalty, either in law or in practice.

“Countries that continue to use the death penalty are being left increasingly isolated following a decade of progress toward abolition,” the report said.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top