From: Focus Taiwan News Channel
22 March 2011
Taipei, March 22 (CNA) Taiwan's new justice minister Tseng Yung-fu, who entered office Monday under pressure to address a recent controversy over the death penalty, said enforcing capital punishment would not violate United Nations human rights conventions.
Former Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng was forced to resign on March 11, after her insistence on not signing off on the executions of 44 inmates currently on death row sparked outrage from victims' families and some legislators.
The furor died down while acting Minister Huang Shih-ming temporarily held the post, but public pressure remained to name a new justice minister who would be willing to see the executions through, even if the country has not carried out an execution of a death penalty inmate since late 2005.
Asked if carrying out the death penalty would not violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) , which Taiwan has signed into law, Tseng said the covenant only hopes that countries reduce the use of capital punishment.
That has happened in Taiwan, Tseng said, citing the reduction in the number of death sentences meted out and the elimination of laws in which the death penalty is the only punishment option.
"Carrying out a death penalty cannot be considered as violating the treaties," Tseng said.
He indicated that there was no deadline binding the minister of justice to sign the execution orders of the 44 death row inmates but said those who were sentenced to death for the most heinous of crimes would have their cases reviewed first.
Despite the controversy, a ministry task force on studying ways to abolish capital punishment will hold its first meeting Tuesday as scheduled, and the ministry will conduct a survey every six months to gauge public opinion on the issue.
At Monday's handover ceremony, acting Minister Huang praised Wang for her enthusiasm and lauded her as an official who stood up for principles.
"It was to everyone's regret that she left," Huang said.
Meanwhile, Tseng also pledged that he would promote a mechanism during his tenure that would make it possible to dismiss incompetent judicial personnel.
"He who laughs at crooked men better walk very straight, " he stressed.
Tseng, 67, a former deputy justice minister, has served as chief prosecutor in Taipei and Tainan cities and Taitung, Yunlin and Chiayi counties as well as the outlying island of Kinmen.
He has also served as the chief prosecutor with the Public Prosecutors Office for the Taiwan High Court and as the Ministry of Justice's chief secretary.
(By An Chi-hsien and Elizabeth Hsu)