Fri, May 23, 2014 - Page 3 News List

RAIL RAMPAGE: Attack reignites death penalty debate

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

The random killing spree on a Taipei MRT train on Wednesday has reignited debate about the death penalty, with a legislator recommending that the perpetrator be put to death.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) suggested revising the law to penalize random killing on public transportation with mandatory death penalty.

“Those who randomly kill should die,” Tsai said on Facebook, in response to the incident in which four people were killed and 23 injured.

“I therefore propose amending Article 271-1 of the Criminal Code to penalize random killers with the death penalty or life in prison, while those who randomly kill on public transportation should be subject to mandatory capital punishment.”

Tsai also proposed amending the Mass Rapid Transit Act (大眾捷運法) to penalize those who carry guns or knives on MRT trains with up to five years in prison, and those who “interrupt” the operations of the MRT system with up to three years in prison.

Taiwan Association for Human Rights chairman Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) said that Tsai’s proposal does not make sense and may be unconstitutional.

“Article 271 of the Criminal Code authorizes the judge to decide whether to give a murderer the death penalty, life in prison, or 10 years or more in prison depending on the motivation or number of victims,” said Chiu, a lawyer. “If it is stipulated in the law that random killing on public transportation systems can only be penalized by death, it would be taking away the judge’s right to make an independent judgement based on the different circumstances in each case.”

Chiu added that, in principle, laws should be applied to all cases, not to one particular case.

“[Tsai’s] proposal to amend the law for a particular case may be unconstitutional,” Chiu said.

The killings have also reignited debate over whether capital punishment should be abolished.

Speaking to reporters, the son of Pan Pi-chu (潘碧珠), one of the victims in Wednesday’s attack, challenged members of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) whether they would still support abolishing the death penalty if their families were murdered as his mother was.

His remarks soon triggered a heated debate on the Internet, with supporters of the death penalty saying that such random murderers should be penalized by death, while opponents argued that capital punishment has not helped to lower the crime rate — especially as the MRT incident happened not long after the execution of five death row inmates.

In a press statement, the TAEDP said that, while it also believes that criminal offenders should be responsible for their actions, “the killings on the Taipei MRT just proves that the death penalty does not stop crime.”

“In fact, from 2006 to 2009, when there was a de facto suspension of the death penalty in Taiwan, the crime rate steadily dropped, which shows that the suspension of executions would not make security worse,” the statement said.

“If media reports that the suspect killed because he wanted to be executed are true, the death penalty is ironically one of the reasons that triggered the crime,” it said.

“Killing does not stop killing; hate only incites more hate; the government should remember this lesson and stop dodging its responsibility [to lower the crime rate] by resorting to executions,” the statement said.

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