Taiwan visit raises hopes of local abolitionists
At the request of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, the World Coalition and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network sent a mission to Taipei in June. American law professor Speedy Rice, who made the trip along with Japanese lawyer Maiko Tagusari and Amnesty International’s China researcher Mark Allison, described the visit as “constructive”.
He said that a lot of positive elements were there to encourage a move towards abolition. Taiwan’s newly elected president, Ma Ying-Jeou, never signed a death warrant when he was justice minister in the 1990s. The current justice minister, for her part, is a former human rights lawyer who opposes capital punishment. No execution has taken place in Taiwan in the past two years.
The Coalition’s visit intended to highlight that situation and build up “political will for abolition”, Rice said. World Coalition members wanted to give abolitionist ideas a boost among Taiwanese leaders, as they are still cautious about reactions in the public opinion: “Many people have strong beliefs on the topic of ending capital punishment”, President Ma said at a meeting with the delegation (photo). “However, it is important to reach a social consensus on the issue.” According to opinion polls, 77% of the population supports capital punishment.
Removing the death penalty for non-violent crimes
The mission also met with Judicial Yuan President Lai In-Jaw and Legislative Yuan Vice-President Tseng Yung-Chuan.
“We discussed ways of reducing the the application of the death penalty and the possibility of removing it for non-violent crimes”, said Rice. He received assurances that the proposal would be put forward soon.
The World Coalition delegation also held talks with the Taipei Bar Association, which showed interest in establishing links with the international abolitionist community. As a result, several Coalition members are now looking into the possibility of exchange programmes and training session for Taiwanese criminal defence lawyers.
“Although Taiwanese officials did not provide a clear plan for adopting a moratorium, all of the officials responded positively to the mission’s inquiries”, said Lin Hsin-Yi, executive director of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, adding: “The mission served as an excellent way for the TAEDP to continue advocating and end to the death penalty with the new government.”