Saturday, 3 April 2010

Amnesty appeal to Taiwan

Amnesty renews its call for Ma to end capital punishment
By Shelley Huang
31 March, 2010, Page 3
Taipei Times

Amnesty International yesterday renewed its call on President Ma Ying-jeou to abolish the death penalty.

Speaking at a press conference in Taipei to mark the group’s annual report on executions, Roseann Rife, deputy program director for Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific office, said: "Amnesty International reiterated to President Ma Ying-jeou that we look to Taiwan to also be a leader in the region and help influence China and Japan to take similar steps."

Amnesty International secretary-general Claudio Cordone wrote to Ma earlier this month to make a similar appeal.

Rife’s appeal came as the nation looks likely to execute the first of its 44 inmates on death row later this year. There has not been an execution since late 2005.

The issue of whether to abolish the death penalty resurfaced recently after minister of justice Wang Ching-feng was forced to resign because of reactions to a statement in which she made clear her support for the abolition of the death penalty and refused to sign off on outstanding execution orders.

Her successor, Tseng Yung-fu, said he would have no problem signing execution orders once all procedures have been completed.

At the press conference yesterday, Rife said that in many countries, death sentences are often the result of flawed legal procedures.

Many defendants are too poor to hire attorneys and court-appointed lawyers are often inexperienced or have heavy workloads, which is unfair to the defendants.

The rights group also urged Ma to follow the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — which was signed by him last year and is now in force — to protect human rights by abolishing the death penalty.

In its annual report, Amnesty said that China, which uses the death penalty as a political weapon, had the highest number of executions last year.

The report shows that as of last year, 95 countries abolished the death penalty.

Although 58 countries have yet to abolish the death penalty, only 18 performed executions last year.

This was the first year Amnesty disregarded official information published by the Chinese government, which does not release exact figures because "executions are still kept as state secrets in China," Rife said.

The rights group alleges that the actual number of executions in China last year — estimated to be in the thousands — far exceeds the official figures released by Beijing.


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