TAEDP speech concerning the death penalty

TAEDP speech concerning the death penalty
Feb. 26, 2013 (中文版本

Good morning,

My name is Lin Hsin-yi and I’m the director of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty. I’m going to talk about the current situation in Taiwan in terms of the death penalty. If you have any questions afterward, I am more than happy to provide information, and so are Li Yang-huang, our board member, and Weng Kuo-yen, one of our lawyers.

In the Covenants Watch report on the ICCPR and the ICESCR, and in the reply to the government’s responses, the TAEDP already explained a lot about the death penalty.

In 2009, Taiwan ratified the two UN Covenants. Taiwan had already stopped executing people for three years. But after it signed the UN Covenants, it went backward. The most obvious examples are: The government started executing more people each year, and it started treating death row inmates worse. Moreover, there are people on death row who may be innocent, but they don’t have an opportunity for retrial. Chiou Ho-shun and Cheng Hsing-tse have not been able to get their cases reopened, like the Hsichih Trio.

The government didn’t only move backwards — it is also violating the ICCPR over and over again. Since 2010, 15 people have been executed. They applied for amnesty, but they did not receive replies from the President’s Office about their applications. Also, some of them didn’t have lawyers at their third trial. At their trials, there were no oral arguments about their sentences to determine if their crimes were in fact “the most serious.” The government has also executed people who are mentally ill or mentally disabled. There are people on death row who were tortured, but the torture was never investigated.

In order to comply with the ICCPR, we recommend that the government take these actions:

1. Immediately stop executions. Increase dialogue with the public about the death penalty and the government’s policy of abolition.

2. Release a list of concrete steps and a time line for ending the death penalty.

3. Amend Taiwan’s laws to comply with the ICCPR. The government says the laws haven’t been amended yet — but that is not an excuse to violate human rights!

4. Until the laws have been amended, the government must still follow Article 4 of the Act on Implementing the Two UN Covenants. Article 4 says that the government shall comply with the UN Covenants.

We believe Taiwan needs to amend or make the following laws: 1) Non-deadly crimes should not be punishable by death. This needs to be changed immediately. 2) In death penalty cases, there should be oral arguments concerning the sentence. Taiwan needs to establish regulations for this. 3) In death penalty cases, the defendant should have a lawyer at all of his trials and appeals. 4) Taiwan needs to amend the Amnesty Act. 5) In death penalty cases, the death sentence needs to be unanimous by the judges. 6) In their ruling, the judges should be required to say why it is necessary to give the death penalty and why life in prison would not be enough.

5. The UN Human Rights Commission and the panel of UN experts who analyzed the government’s human rights report have both passed resolutions saying that  countries shouldn’t execute people who are mentally disabled. Taiwan’s courts should respect this. “Mentally disabled” should include disability at the time of the crime or the time of the sentence. When the courts sentence someone, their mental disability should be a factor for a lighter sentence.

6. The government should stop organ donations from death row prisoners. This violates international and Taiwanese regulations on organ donations.

7. Improve the treatment of death row inmates in prison.

8. Information about the death penalty should be transparent. That means, the government should notify the families of death row inmates before they are executed. The government should publish a list of the people who will be killed and when they will be killed. It also means the government should regularly release information about the death penalty, including how many people are on death row and how many people are being sentenced to death.