Stop death penalty in Taiwan

Heidi Hautala, Chairwoman of European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights and Laima Andrikiene Vice-Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights have condemned the resumption of death penalty in Taiwan.[:]
In our capacity as President and Vice President of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament (EP), we want to express our deep regret and shock at the fact that four persons sentenced to death for criminal charges – Chang Chun-Hong, Chang Wen-Wei, Hong Chen Yeow, and Ke Shi-Ming – were executed by the Taiwanese state authorities on April 30, 2010.

This regrettable move comes after 52 months of moratorium on the capital punishment, which has now been broken by the order signed by the Justice Minister Tseng Yung-Fu. The Taiwanese officials, including the Justice Minister himself, have on numerous occasions reiterated their determination to continue the process of constitutional review of the death sentences and to exhaust all other possible remedies for the 44 prisoners on death row and not to haste with the resumption of executions. We can see now that this pledge has not been kept.

Nor has the current ruling Kuomintang party made sufficient steps to seek for a cross-party consensus on the abolition of death penalty inside Taiwan. Knowing that the Democratic Progressive Party, the main opposition party in Taiwan, is in support of the abolition, there is a real window of opportunity to move ahead with the decision to abolish the death penalty without having to pay a decisive political price for any of the parties in Taiwan’s domestic politics.

The resumption of the death penalty also acts strongly against Taiwan’s aspirations to join the UN and other international organizations. Just than a year ago, in March, 2009, Taiwan signed the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Covenant clearly states that “every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”. As a reflection of the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty, the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2007 voted in favour of the resolution calling on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty and I stand fully behind the strong position taken by the UN. I also support the conviction expressed by the UN member states that there is no “evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty and that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable”.

Human rights rest at the core of EU’s value system and the EU places great significance to the defence of human rights, including the right to life, in its external policies. The principle to defend human rights worldwide is enshrined in all major EU documents devoted to external policy. Abandoning the moratorium on the death penalty will certainly not help improve EU-Taiwan relations and will not help Taiwan in its strive towards greater international recognition.

The European Parliament has a particularly strong position concerning the morality and usefulness of the capital punishment. The EP has more than once reiterated its long-standing position against the death penalty in all cases and under all circumstances and expressed its conviction that the “abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and to the progressive development of human rights”. In its resolution of 29 January 2007, the EP declared that it considers death penalty a “cruel and inhuman punishment and a violation of the right to life”.

We express our full support and solidarity with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton, as well as numerous international non-governmental organizations in their call to the Taiwanese authorities to resume the moratorium on death penalty and to take clear and concrete steps towards its eventual abolition.