On returning to Taiwan late on Friday from a landmark visit to China, a country infamous for its high execution rate, Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) said her ministry would tread carefully when dealing with cases involving capital punishment.
Addressing calls by some groups to execute convicted offenders on death row, Luo said the Ministry of Justice would deal with the issue in a prudent manner, adding that the ministry has formed a “special review committee” for capital punishment cases that involve potential miscarriages of justice.
A plan to set up the committee came before a four-year-old girl was decapitated in Taipei on Monday.
“In the aftermath of the case, everyone sees the need for this special review committee to implement and carry out its mandate,” Luo said. “Therefore, we request prosecutors’ offices at all levels to pass on all cases involving capital punishment to the ministry for review by the committee.”
Luo said that she is unaware of the progress of the review process on various cases, so she does not know whether any inmates on death row would be executed before May 20, when President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration steps down.
On her visit to China, Luo said there are still many areas that need addressing with regard to the Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement (海峽兩岸共同打擊犯罪及司法互助協議), which she said was the reason for her trip to Shanghai and Beijing, where she met with a number of high-ranking Chinese government officials.
“We held discussions and exchanged views on judicial reform, the personal safety of Taiwanese businesspeople in China and other issues. Both sides see potential for progress and further collaboration, and are pushing for changes in their respective legal systems,” Luo said.
However, legislators and legal experts expressed concerns regarding national security, while speculating that Luo might be delivering messages on Ma’s behalf, as the ministry kept details of the trip under wraps even after her departure on Monday.
Lawyer Chou Wu-jung (周武榮) said the ministry oversees judicial agencies that conduct investigations into criminal violations, with some units also responsible for handling Chinese spies undertaking espionage activities and intelligence-gathering work in Taiwan, adding that Luo’s visit to China was highly inappropriate due to concerns over national security leaks.
“I wonder what the underlying purpose for this visit was. As minister of justice, Luo should not go to China at this time,” Chou said.
Judicial Reform Foundation executive director and lawyer Kao Jung-chih (高榮志) said there are concerns over what took place behind closed doors during her trip to China.
“It is useless to exchange views on judicial framework and legal matters with China. Did she go there to learn about arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens?” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said.
“We hope Luo can focus more on human rights and legal issues in Taiwan, because our citizens have a lack of trust in the nation’s justice system,” Wu added.
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