Saturday, 5 June 2010

Taiwan: Activists' plea for abolition

Government must clarify death penalty policy: activists
Focus Taiwan News
2 June, 2010

Taipei, June 2 (CNA) Disappointed anti-death penalty activists said Wednesday that they will stop pursuing a constitutional interpretation on capital punishment after the Justices of Constitutional Court rejected a petition last week on halting the death penalty.

However, they urged President Ma Ying-jeou to live up to his pledge to end the practice in the future.

Accusing Ma of duplicity, the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) , along with over 50 supporters from the medical, environmental, religious and legal sectors, complained that while the president has vowed to abolish the death penalty, he continues to allow the Ministry of Justice to execute people.

In April, Taiwan ended a four-year de facto moratorium on capital punishment by executing four of its 44 death row inmates.

Justice Minister Tseng Yong-fu, who was appointed after his predecessor resigned for refusing to sign off on executions, has been vague on the eventual plight of the remaining 40, saying only that he will respect the decision of the Constitutional Court.

According to the court, the government's adherence to its death penalty policy does not go against the two U.N. covenants -- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- signed by the president in late March.

Human rights lawyer Wellington Koo lamented the court's decision, saying the rejection means the group has exhausted all legal means of swaying the government and that "all we can do now is to plead with the government to hear us out."

According to the TAEDP, Taiwan is one of 18 countries, including the United States and China, that continue to enforce capital punishment.

"The president and the justice minister have publicly vowed to end the death penalty but yet they continue to sign off on death warrants. Their actions make us highly dubious of their true intentions, " said TAEDP Chairwoman Chiu Hei-yuan, urging Ma to clarify his stance.

Another of the activists, Catholic Archbishop John Hung, said that "it has been proven over and over again that the death penalty is not an antidote for reducing violence in society." (By Jenny W. Hsu) ENDITEM/J