The WCADP Steering Committee meets Taiwanese officials in its first mission to Asia

The WCADP Steering Committee meets Taiwanese officials in its first mission to Asia

20130417 Press Release

The Steering Committee of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) met for the first time in Asia. Members of the committee include representatives from more than 20 important NGOs in Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Iran, Italy, Morocco, Norway, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and USA. During her meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou on 16 April, Ms. Florence Bellivier, President of WCADP, emphasized the attention that the international community is showing towards Asia and, in particular, as far as Taiwan is concerned, the focus is on the abolition of the death penalty and human rights protection. Ms. Bellivier also currently serves as Deputy Secretary-General of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Following the Steering Committee meeting on 12 and 13 April, the WCADP steering committee members met Taiwanese officials, including the President, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Ministry of Justice. They also visited Taipei Detention Center and Taichung Detention Center.

President Ma emphasized the public pressure regarding abolition

During the meeting with the WCADP representatives, President Ma Ying-jeou explained the current policy of ‘keeping death penalty while reducing its use’, pointing out many measures taken by the Taiwanese government to improve the current death penalty system. He also said that ‘People know that death penalty does not deter or reduce crimes, but fear that crimes would be encouraged without death penalty’, stressing the pressure from the public on politicians, who are thus unwilling to take further steps regarding death penalty abolition.

Ms. Florence Bellivier explained the works of the WCADP to President Ma. She also presented The Hidden Face of Taiwan, a report written jointly by FIDH and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) to the President. The report is an analysis of the implementation of the two Covenants (ICCPR and ICESCR) by the Taiwan government. She emphasized the need for more improvements, e.g. unfair trial still exists in many cases, while praising many other improvements made by the government.

Ms. Elizabeth A. Zitrin, Vice-President of the WCADP and Special Projects Director at Death Penalty Focus (USA), also explained to the President the complexity of public opinions by citing her work experiences in the USA: When the public are presented with different policy choices, the government receives different responses. The majority of those interviewed said ‘yes’ to the question ‘Do you support death penalty?’ Almost half of them expressed their support if asked ‘Do you support life imprisonment without parole to replace the death penalty?’ 80% supports ‘life imprisonment without parole to replace the death penalty if the prisoners could work and their earnings would be used in the work of victim protection’. Therefore, she concludes, the politicians should assume the leading role in formulating policy and guiding the people to move towards abolition of death penalty, instead of only listening to public opinion.

Mr. Renny Cushing, Executive Director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights and New Hampshire State Representative, pointed out to President Ma that the ‘death penalty’ could not help victims. As a family member of murder victims, he observed that the governments usually only ‘carry out executions’ while ignoring other needs of the victims and their family.

Mr. Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, Director of Ensemble contre la peine de mort and Vice-President of the WCADP, invited President Ma to send delegates to attend the Fifth World Congress Against the Death Penalty, to be held in June in Madrid.

Ms. Hsinyi Lin, Director of Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP), also joined this visit to the Presidential Office. She gave the President the National Human Rights Plans of Action drafted by Covenants Watch, encouraging the Taiwanese Government to take positive actions regarding the implementation of concluding observations made by the independent experts. The review process was an occasion on which the NGOs could provide the Government with criticisms and recommendations; the independent experts were also impressed by the dialogue between the Taiwanese Government and civil society groups. Contrary to the opinion of President Ma viewing such interaction as the evidence of the ‘implementation of the two Covenants by Taiwan’, Ms. Hsinyi Lin pointed out that the Taiwanese Government had not decided how to implement the 81 concluding observations since the end of the review process of the implementation of the two Covenants, especially when independent experts had made explicit conclusions regarding the 15 executions in the past three years as being in violation the two Covenants.

Cheng Hsing-tze: I am innocent and waiting for a not-guilty verdict

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Jacky Hortaut (The French Collective Support of Mumia Abu-Jamal) and Ms. Hsinyi Lin (TAEDP) also presented case materials of Chiou Ho-shun and Cheng Hsing-tze. In both cases, the defendants were tortured during investigation and subsequently were sentenced to death without any direct evidence.

After the meeting, the WCADP representatives visited Taipei Detention Center to know more about the daily life of death row inmates. Together with Ms. Mei-Nu Yu (Legislator) and Ms. Hsinyi Lin, Ms. Florence Bellivier and Mr. Aurelie Placais (Director of Programs, WCADP) visited Cheng Hsing-tze at the Taichung Detention Center. Cheng Hsing-tze expressed his gratitude for the visit by Ms. Mei-Nu Yu and the WCADP representatives. He insisted on his innocence and hope for a not-guilty verdict with the help of lawyers and assistance from NGOs both inside and outside the country.

At the end of the WCADP mission in Taiwan, Ms. Maria Donatelli (Director, WCADP) reaffirmed the will of the WCADP to keep working in Asia in general and in Taiwan in particular by maintaining the strong collaboration with its Steering Committee member, Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty and supporting the work of TAEDP both at the national and international levels. The mission to Taiwan and the possibility to meet with local civil society and with the authorities has given the WCADP and its Steering Committee members a better understanding of the Taiwanese death penalty system and that would be a fundamental asset for the future work towards abolition in the country.

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) is an alliance of more than 140 NGOs, human rights groups, bar associations, local authorities and unions. It was set up on 13 May 2002 in Rome. It is the largest international human rights NGO advocating abolition of death penalty. To achieve the goal of universal abolition, WCADP promotes and strengthens international cooperation in the fight against death penalty. As a first step towards abolition, WCADP advocates moratorium on the use of death penalty in sentencing and executions to reduce the use of death penalty in countries where capital punishment is yet to be abolished. WCADP regularly provides the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) with opinions and suggestions regarding matters related to death penalty.


Further reading
20130415 Press Release — The First WCADP Steering Committee Meeting in Asia