Taiwan’s top court rejects appeal to suspend executions
Taiwan’s Constitutional Court (Judicial Yuan, photo) rejected a petition questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty on May 28, exposing the country’s 40 death row inmates to the risk of execution.
The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP), a World Coalition member organisation, had filed the petition earlier this year. It highlighted the lack of legal representation and debates between the prosecution and the defence in the final stages of capital trials as well as the weakness of procedures allowing death row inmates to apply for clemency.
TAEDP argued that Taiwan’s death penalty legislation was thus in contradiction with the country’s constitution and international commitments.
But according to local media reports, the Constitutional Court ruled that “the defendants are given the opportunity to defend and express themselves during the trial process”. It added that “there is no violation of the Constitution in the convictions” and “execution of the death row prisoners does not violate the two United Nations covenants that Taiwan has signed”.
“The request to suspend the executions is dismissed”
“The request to suspend the executions is dismissed, as the court declines to review the case,” the court concluded.
Taiwan broke a five-year moratorium executions in April, when four people who had not taken part in the petition were executed in one day.
Now that the legal action taken on their behalf has been rejected, “the 40 remaining death row inmates now face an increasingly uncertain future and may face imminent execution,” the Asia Anti-Death Penalty Network (ADPAN), a regional network including TAEDP and Amnesty International, wrote in a statement.
In a letter to FIACAT, another World Coalition member organisation engaged in combating the death penalty in Taiwan, the ministry of justice (MOJ) wrote that cases when death row inmates have no pending appeals or petitions nor is there doubts about their conviction, “the MOJ will go carefully with the case in accordance with the law” and execute them.
The MOJ added that it would “continue its set policy of moving in the direction of gradually abolishing death penalty in hopes to attain the ultimate goal of no death penalty” through a “step-by-step” approach including a reduction in the number of capital offences, the introduction of alternative penalties and wider information of the public about capital punishment.
“At present, the majority of the people in Taiwan are still opposed to the abolishment of death penalty and therefore it is inappropriate for our country to do away with death penalty right now,” the ministry conducted.
ADPAN “appeals to the Taiwan Government to stand out, lead and join the global majority rather than aligning itself with other executing countries in the region such as Bangladesh, China, North Korea and Vietnam – all have executed prisoners since the beginning of 2010”.
At the regional level, Asian activists have launched a petition to convince governments, including Taiwan’s, that “we can do without the death penalty”. The campaign, which is co-ordinated by Japan’s Center for Prisoners’ Rights and Amnesty International section, regrets that the heaviest users of the death penalty are located in Asia and states that “East Asian states should renounce the state-sponsored violence known as the death penalty”.