The nation was again the recipient of international criticism over the execution of six death-row inmates on Friday, the second round of executions staged in the past four months.
Friday’s executions brought the number of inmates executed under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to 21.
A statement issued yesterday by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton deplored the execution, saying: “Taiwan’s authorities continue to act in disregard of concerns expressed worldwide.”
Ashton said she “profoundly regrets” that Taiwan has chosen to “ignore the recommendation” to introduce a moratorium on executions, which was made on March 1 by an international panel of experts convened to review Taiwan’s first human rights report.
This decision “very unfortunately confirms the deterioration of the situation” in Taiwan on the question of the death penalty, after the interruption of a four-year moratorium on executions, she said.
When publishing their observations and recommendations, the panel strongly recommended that the government intensify its efforts toward abolition of capital punishment and, as a first and decisive step, immediately introduce a moratorium on executions in accordance with the respective resolutions of the UN General Assembly.
Taiwan had observed a de facto moratorium on executions from late 2005 to April 2010.
The first execution since Ma took office in 2008 was in April 2010, followed by the executions of five inmates in March 2011, and another six in December last year.
Ashton called on the government to “end this backtracking” and to work toward a moratorium on executions with a view to abolition.
In defense of his signing the execution orders, Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) said that those executed had engaged in atrocious and cruel crimes that exhibited exceptional depravity.
Ashton said she recognized the serious nature of the crimes and expressed her sincere sympathy to the families of the victims.
“However, the EU is opposed to capital punishment in all cases without exception, and has consistently called for its universal abolition,” she said.
Ma has tried to play down his role in the executions, saying that the justice ministry has “acted in accordance with the law” and he “respected the ministry’s mandate.”
In a separate press release, Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific program director at Amnesty International, called on Ma to impose an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty and to engage in a national debate about abolishing it.
“A dozen executions in Taiwan in less than six months raises serious questions about the authorities’ pledges to abolish the death penalty,” Baber said.
Amnesty said the execution on Friday was “a cruel change of heart from earlier commitments made by Taiwanese authorities to abolish the brutal practice.”
Barbara Lochbihler, chair of the the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, also condemned the executions, according to a Central News Agency report on Friday.
Lochbihler was quoted as saying that executions serve no purpose in deterring crime, and that there is no credible evidence that the death penalty is a more effective deterrent than long-term imprisonment.
In response, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said yesterday that he supported the decision to carry out the execution because that “met the public’s expectation.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) said the ministry has taken note of the concern expressed by the European Parliament.
It’s not yet a consensus among Taiwan public on doing away with the death penalty, Kao said, adding that relatedgovernment agencies have been directing their efforts towards reducing the use of capital punishment.