Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-04-19 05:16 PM
Taiwan executed six prisoners in an unexpected move last December which provoked criticism from domestic and overseas human rights groups. After Friday’s action, 50 are still on death row, while most opinion polls have indicated high levels of public support for the death penalty.
Friday’s executions took place in four locations, Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Hualien, media reports said. Most of the convicts on the list were responsible for multiple killings, including one man who had killed two consecutive wives and three children in an insurance scam and another found responsible for a 1985 Tainan hotel fire which killed 26 people, reports said. The gap between the crime and the execution was so wide in this case because the man spent 25 years on the run before being caught at his mother’s funeral, according to local media.
Even though President Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly claimed he wanted to reduce the use of death sentences and executions, the Ministry of Justice has defended its stance by saying that under existing laws, it was compelled to follow court verdicts and conduct executions. In 2010, Taiwan resumed executions after a gap of four years.
The reported executions were the first ones since the visit of an international human rights delegation to Taiwan last month. The group, which included several renowned experts, called on the government to freeze executions immediately. A local action group also released a statement Friday in that sense, according to Chinese-language Next TV.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party accused the MOJ of timing the executions to try and divert attention away from its early Friday morning moving of former President Chen Shui-bian from one of Taiwan’s best-known hospitals to a medical facility at Taichung Prison.
The foreign specialists made a call for the abolition of the death penalty before last December’s executions, which threatened to derail their visit.
Their aim was to evaluate the country’s application of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by the Legislative Yuan in 2009 and of last year’s national human rights report. The group presented the conclusions of its visit and 84 suggestions at a news conference at the end of its visit.
Even though the two international covenants did not ban the death penalty, abolishing it was a global trend with the United Nations passing resolutions asking for a freeze of executions, the experts said.
Over the past three years, executions had not only not been stopped but had even increased, causing the foreign observers to renew their call for a gradual abolition of the death penalty. The government should first stop all executions and then work toward the ending of death sentences, they said.
The delegation of human rights specialists included Vienna University law professor Manfred Nowak, former UN human rights expert Eibe Riedel and New York University professor Jerome Cohen, a former teacher of the president.