Thursday, 23 October 2008

Taiwanese group stirs debate on abolition

A Taiwanese abolitionist group has encouraged the government to set an example in Asia by abolishing the death penalty and is holding a series of events to promote debate on the issue.

The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) staged a concert on 10 October, the World Day Against the Death Penalty, to promote its campaign and next month it will hold a series of international forums on criminal code reform.

Taiwan was one of six countries chosen by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) for the day of action, and human rights campaigners worldwide encouraged the government to introduce a moratorium on executions.

The TAEDP pointed to global trends against the death penalty and recent statements by senior government leaders.

"Abolishing the death penalty is actually a global trend," said TAEDP executive director Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡) on the World Day, according to the Taipei Times.

"We've seen too many cases around the world in which people are found innocent only after they were executed — There is unfortunately no chance of reversing the sentence for them."

She said there were positive signs Taiwan could play a leading role in abolition across Asia.

"There has been no execution at all in Taiwan for nearly three years, and there are already debates on the topic," she said.

"We think there’s a hope, especially because Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng [王清峰] has openly spoken against the death penalty and President Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] hinted so as well during the [presidential] campaign."

Wang has said she supported abolition and Ma campaigned on a promise to uphold international human rights standards.

"Although Ma did not say it clearly, ending the death penalty is one of the ideas outlined in these documents," Lin said.

Partnerships stimulate debate
Next month the TAEDP will hold forums with experts from three European countries to share perspectives on abolition and inform debate about reform.

The Taipei Times reported the first forum on 3 November would hear from two leading French lawyers, who would speak about reform of the criminal code and international law.

The event is being organised in conjunction with the French office in Taiwan, the National Taipei University and the Taiwan Law Society, with support from the European Economic and Trade Office.

"The objective of Taiwan's Criminal Code is to re-educate and reform prisoners, not to kill them," a TAEDP volunteer told the Taipei Times.

German academics will discuss abolition, social safety, victim protection and prison reform at a seminar on 6 and 7 November, organised by the TAEDP and the German Institute in Taipei.

Death penalty experts from Great Britain will address the process of ending the death penalty on 13 and 14 November.

Related stories:
Life Watch to save Taiwan's innocent from death -- 12 February 2008
Torment on Taiwan's death row -- 15 May 2007
Taiwan limits mandatory penalties -- 29 January 2007
Abolition debate for Taiwan in 2007 -- 12 January 2007
Taiwan: Death penalty benefit an 'illusion' -- 14 December 2006
Taiwan working towards abolition? -- 21 February 2006


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