Thursday, 14 December 2006

Taiwan: Death penalty benefit an 'illusion'

Taiwan approved plans to execute a man only three weeks after its Justice Minister wrote to Amnesty International saying the government believed "that execution is not the answer" to crime.

Amnesty International (AI) said Chong Deshu (also reported as Chung Te-shu or 鍾德樹) was at risk of imminent execution after the Ministry of Justice released a notice of final judgment on 1 December.

Executions are usually carried out three days after the notice is issued, but AI said the Proesecutor-General appears to have delayed the execution to allow Chong Deshu's lawyer extra time to review the case.

His lawyer was reportedly examining whether there were any legal options that could prevent the execution, however AI has warned that he "could be executed at any moment without notice".

Chong Deshu was convicted of arson after an April 2001 fire killed three people and injured eighteen others.

On Saturday, the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) applied to the Supreme Prosecutors' Office to review legal documents relating to Chung's case.

According to a report in The Taipei Times, the group hoped to stop the execution.

"The review of the case's legal documents may lead to an extraordinary application [to stop the execution] if the documents reveal anything suspicious," said Y.C. Kao (高湧誠) from the TAEDP.

Take action
Please write to the President of Taiwan, urging him to stop the execution of Chong Deshu, commute his sentence and take steps towards the full abolition of the death penalty. Send letters to:

President CHEN Shui-bian
Office of the President
122 Chungching S. Road, Sec.1
Taipei 10048
Fax: +886 2 23115877
Salutation: Your Excellency

'Serious thought'
Minister of Justice Shih Mao-Lin wrote to AI on 8 November saying he would "give serious thought to your suggestion not to carry out any executions over the coming months".

"We must say we agree with you completely that the reliance on the death penalty as a method of crime control is illusory. We also believe that execution is not the answer," Shih Mao-Lin wrote.

AI had written to the Minister of Justice on the World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October) urging the government "to take immediate and concrete steps towards abolition of the death penalty".

The human rights organisation said it was "encouraged by numerous statements made by Taiwanese officials over recent years indicating support for abolition" and welcomed that no executions had been ordered or carried out to date this year.

"Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments," AI said.

Related story:
Taiwan working towards abolition? -- 20 February 2006

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