Death-row petition welcomed

‘PAS DE MORT’::An official said he has received no information from the representative office in France about a petition asking Taiwan’s government to spare Chiuo Ho-shun

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - Page 2

Human rights activists welcomed the support of 100,000 French who signed a petition asking Taiwan’s government to spare the life of death-row prisoner Chiou Ho-shun (邱和順), while calling on the government to abolish capital punishment.

“In a ‘signature marathon’ campaign organized by Amnesty International in December last year, as many as 105,495 signatures were collected from French citizens calling for a stop to the execution of Chiou, who was sentenced to death based on a confession obtained through torture, and demanding a new legal process for him,” Amnesty International France said in a press statement in French released on Wednesday.

“The signatures will be officially presented to the Taipei Representative Office in Paris on Feb. 14 at 3pm,” it said.

Chiou was selected as one of Amnesty International’s highlighted cases, for which the organization calls for urgent action from its members worldwide, in 2011 when his death sentence was finalized.

Other than petitions and letters to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫), Chiou has also received 2,000 letters of support from across the world.

Chiou was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a nine-year-old boy in 1987, though there was no direct hard evidence proving his involvement.

Instead, a confession — which Chiou claims to have made after he was tortured — was the basis of the conviction.

The findings of a Control Yuan investigation support his claim.

“On one hand, I think this is excellent to hear, however, on the other hand, it’s saddening,” Amnesty International Taiwan chairman Freddy Lim (林昶佐) told the Taipei Times via telephone on hearing the news.

“It’s saddening, because, after more than 20 years since the democratization of Taiwan, human rights abuses that require attention from activists within and outside of the country still exist,” he said.

Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡), executive director of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, welcomed the news, though she urged the public to pay as much attention to all 56 inmates on death row.

“Besides Chiou’s case, there are also many other cases among the 56 death-row prisoners that are problematic — the case of Cheng Hsing-tse [鄭性澤] is one,” Lin said.

Cheng was sentenced to death after being convicted of the murder of a police officer, though there was no hard evidence supporting the conviction and Cheng insists that the confession he made during police interrogation was the product of torture.

“I would say that capital punishment is a very ‘unsafe’ penalty, because it’s irreversible and the quality of legal procedure is notoriously poor in Taiwan,” Lin said. “It’s time to abolish the death penalty.”

Asked for comment, Deputy Minister of Justice Wu Chen-huan (吳陳鐶) said that he could not comment on individual cases and that each case would be handled fairly according to the law.

Department of European Affairs Director-General Hsu Mien-sheng (徐勉生) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said he had yet to receive any information from the representative office in France.

“I need to look into it before deciding how the ministry will handle the petition,” Hsu said.