Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty
Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty
The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty Taiwan (TAEDP) is a coalition of various local abolitionist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and research institutes.Launched in September 2003 by the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), the Judicial Reform Foundation (JRF), Fujen University John Paul II Peace Institute, the Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights, the Taipei Bar Association (TBA) and the Peacetime Foundation, the Alliance promotes the reform of Taiwan’s penal system and advocates the abolition of the death penalty. The Alliance was formed to stress and promote the absolute value of life and human dignity as core to the protection and promotion of human rights. Profoundly understanding that society has yet to be exposed to the debate concerning death penalty abolition, and that the general public seems to support capital punishment as a form of revenge against perpetrators of major crimes, the alliance aims to create an open discussion forum for society on various abolition issues. Furthermore, it advocates shaping a better penal system that both respects the value of life while truly compensating the victims so as to really uphold justice and safeguard human rights for all.
The TAEDP is Taiwan’s first coalition of abolitionist NGOs and academics continuously operating to advocate for the abolition of capital punishment. From 1949 Taiwan had undergone the world’s longest uninterrupted martial law and authoritarian rule leading to many harsh penalties prescribed by laws. In the 1990s, Taiwan’s legal code provided for the mandatory death sentence for 89 specific crimes, while capital punishment was an option for another 108 laws, leading to sporadic efforts by human rights organizations and individuals for death penalty abolition and rescue of death row inmates.In 2000, the country went through its first peaceful power transfer. Chen Shui-bian, the newly-elected president, promised that the country would move towards abolition. In May 2001, the minister of justice further announced that Taiwan would bring capital punishment to an end in three years. NGOs therefore took the opportunity to publicly demand a moratorium on executions to pave the way for full death penalty abolition.At the same time, freedom of expression has been more fully protected upon the 1987 lifting of martial law. Generally society has also become more tolerant of dissenting voices, so the social context as a whole has created more fertile ground for the abolition movement.In May 2003, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of an urgent and highly controversial death penalty case, that of Hsu Tse-chiang. JRF, TAHR, TBA and the Alliance for Fairness and Justice intensified their demand for a government moratorium. In September 2003, these NGOs eventually launched the Alliance.Government-commissioned public opinion polls in 2001 and 2002 showed that the majority is against abolition. Yet two surveys also found that the rate would drastically decline if an alternative penalty were offered for major crimes. In addition, partially underlying such strong rejection of the abolition movement is the idea that abolitionists disregard the needs of the victims. The alliance therefore promotes discussion of issues beyond abolition while at the same time advocating for it. This includes exploring an alternative penalty for the most egregious crimes, fashioning a better penal policy, and taking into consideration the needs of the victims and their families.
The Alliance invites prominent opinion leaders of all fields to participate in its work, leading to more comprehensive discussion of abolition and beyond. It also helps influence society’s perception and understanding of abolitionist arguments.Another major Alliance job is to pressure the president and political leadership to ensure that Taiwan is heading towards abolition of the death penalty. The Alliance demands a constitutional amendment clearly stipulating that there should be no death penalty in Taiwan.Extensive study of Taiwan’s death penalty cases to prepare the Alliance for future lobbying and public education is also a priority. The Alliance holds regular study sessions and organizes case studies to enhance membership understanding. A “Murder by Number” film festival was held in December 2004 to present relevant issues to the public using the soft approach. In May 2005, the Alliance invited the New York-based photographer Toshi Kazama to Taiwan for a exhibition tour, “Do You See the Color of Death?” Kazama’s black-and-white photos of juvenile death row inmates tell people around the world why the death penalty is not the answer to justice. The Alliance promotes regional and international networking to introduce Taiwan to updated discussions and information on abolition of the death penalty. It also believes that the exchange of experiences and viewpoints is crucial to refining better strategies for the fight for a death penalty-free society.
Organization and Operations
The Alliance has a convener to coordinate all participating NGOs and individuals. In addition, it is has two deputy conveners. A monthly meeting is held for extensive discussions of related issues. TAEDP has four working groups: Advocacy and Strategy, Education and Communication, Research and Study, and Death Watch.
Taiwan Association for Human Rights, aiwan Judicial Reform Foundation, Fujen University John Paul II Peace Institute, Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights, Taipei Bar Association, Taiwan Law Society, Taiwan Labor Front, The Humanistic Education Foundation, Taipei Society, Gender/Sexuality Rights Association, Life Conservationist Association, Media Watch, Parents’ Society of Overseas Students, Church and Society Committee of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, Rights-Peace-Development Education Consortium, The Alliance of Fairness and Justice.