Thu, Feb 15, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Government hopes to ‘one day’ abolish death penalty

Staff writer, with CNA

The government hopes to one day abolish capital punishment, but until then, death penalties must be carried out in accordance with the proper legal procedure, Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said.

In an interview with the Central News Agency, Chiu said President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), like her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), sees abolition of the death penalty as a long-term goal.

However, extensive public discussion of the controversial issue is required before the goal can be achieved and the Ministry of Justice has not set any time frame for it, Chiu said.

While human rights groups, such as the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, have been calling for abolishing capital punishment, it will take time to reach a public consensus on the issue, he said.

Although Taiwan has ratified two international conventions that are seen as legal foundations for ending the death penalty, they are not binding, Chiu said.

Since he took office in May 2016, the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office has not sent any orders for the execution of death row prisoners, who now number 43, he added.

If the death penalty is handed down in lower courts, the case must go all the way to the Supreme Court, Chiu said.

If the Supreme Court upholds the verdict, the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office would review the matter and decide whether to carry out the sentence, after which an execution order is sent to the ministry for the minister’s signature, Chiu added.

Even then, the ministry can assess the case and choose not to sign the execution order, he added.

The death penalty remains a controversial issue in Taiwan, years after the legislature in 2009 ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, the two conventions that Chiu cited as the legal foundations for the abolition of capital punishment.

In related news, Chiu said the ministry is working to improve prison conditions by providing more beds so every inmate can have one.

There are 62,000 inmates in Taiwan, but only 23,000 prison beds, with about 40,000 prisoners having to sleep on the floor.

“Frankly, such conditions are inhumane,” Chiu said.

Three new prisons are under construction, each with a capacity of 4,000 inmates, while existing facilities are being expanded, he added.

Chiu said he is also hoping to implement a prison rehabilitation program that would provide training for inmates to learn new skills and increase their chances of finding a job after their release.

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