President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said that although some other nations have replaced the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole, Taiwan is not thinking of following suit.
Ma was responding to a question on the death penalty during a news conference held to address the release of the second national report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole has caused many problems for nations around the world, Ma said.
For example, the public might find it hard to accept the idea of a nation providing lifelong support for people convicted of serious crimes, he said, adding that prison population management can be another problem.
In addition, putting criminals in prison for the rest of their lives is no less harmful to their human rights than executing them, Ma said.
Based on these reasons, the Ministry of Justice is not considering replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole, he said.
The government’s current policy is to keep the death penalty, but use it judiciously, he added.
Over the past 20 years, Taiwan has abolished all laws that prescribed the death sentence as the sole penalty and has been reviewing those laws that maintain it as an optional punishment, Ma said.
Judges and prosecutors have also been very cautious in their handling of cases in which the death penalty is applicable, he said.
As a result, the number of people sentenced to death has dropped to six per year on average from a high of 18 per year in the past, Ma said.
Taiwanese cannot accept the idea of removing the death penalty from the law books, the president said, adding that abolition of capital punishment is not a global trend.
Although the UN has adopted several resolutions calling on nations that maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use, the nations that retain capital punishment still account for 60 percent of the world’s population, Ma said.
Meanwhile, in response to media requests for comment on renewed calls for former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to be pardoned, Ma said that would not be feasible at the moment because there are still ongoing criminal cases involving Chen.