Taiwanese against, Church in favour of moratorium on death penalty
Taipei (AsiaNews) - The rape and murder of a student 13 years by a serial sex offender has forced the government of Taiwan to terminate its moratorium on executions. A public opinion poll showed that 70% of people in Taiwan are in favour of the death penalty.
Johnny Chiang, minister of the Government Information Office, said March 28 that a consensus on abolishing the death penalty within Taiwan has yet to be formed and the issue will need more rational debates. He was responding to a report unveiled earlier in the day by human rights group Amnesty International (AI), in which it criticized Taiwan for resuming executions and falling back into a group of 23 countries that performed executions in 2010.
In its annual report "Death Sentences and Executions in 2010," AI said the world was watching closely when Taiwan's Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng, resigned in early 2010 because she opposed the death penalty. Meanwile, the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference discussed the Death penalty last April in the annual gathering, in which the bishops urged Taiwan’s government and the people to consider the abolition of the death penalty, and to take a stand to suspend executions pending its complete abolition, as well as to respect the human dignity and the sanctity of life.
Wang’s successor, Tseng Yung-fu, then carried out the executions on four death row inmates last April. AI also issued a statement voicing its disapproval for Taiwan's executions of another five men earlier this month. Taiwan resumed executions last April, ending an unofficial moratorium that had existed since 2005.
Capital punishment received increased scrutiny in January when the Taiwan government revealed that it might have executed an innocent Air Force private in 1997. The man was convicted of murdering and raping a five-year-old girl based on a confession that was forced out through torture. President Ma Ying-jeou apologized to his family.
However, earlier last week, 34-year-old Lin Kuo-chen — who was released on parole last month after serving more than eight years in prison for sexual and other offenses committed in 2002 — confessed to having raped and murdered a 13-year-old junior high school girl in Yunlin County, according to police. Lin was also convicted of another sexual assault in 1996 and imprisoned from 1997 to 2001.
The latest case has shocked the public, with many calling on the judicial authorities to sentence him to death. The Ministry of Justice will decide whether to introduce chemical castration and caning against sex offenders in three months, Tseng said last weekend. Tseng made the remarks during a question-and-answer-session on the legislative floor , during which some Chinese Nationalist Party lawmakers demanded the ministry follow the example of Singapore and use caning, or that of other countries which have made chemical castration mandatory for sex offenders. The demand came after the recent rape and murder of the 13-year-old girl.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Justice, around 22 percent of sex offenders repeatedly commit crimes, but only around 3 percent of the crimes committed are sexual- assault related.
The number of supervised violent sex offenders from 2004 to 2010 was around 344, and 15 of them had committed repeated sexual assaults. About 22 percent of sex offenders commit another crime within 5 years
President Ma said earlier last week that Taiwan will continue to carry out executions of death row inmates as the country's laws mandate, but the government has worked towards reducing the use of capital punishment.
Ma’s remarks came after Beverley Wakem, president of the International Ombudsman Institute, said at a Control Yuan seminar that some countries were violating human rights by implementing the death penalty.
The AI report also said countries that continue to use the death penalty are becoming increasingly isolated following a decade of progress towards abolition. A total of 31 countries abolished the death penalty in law or in practice during the last 10 years. However, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United States and Yemen still remain among the most frequent executioners. After China, Iran ranked second by executing 252 in 2010, followed by North Korea (60), Yemen (53), U.S. (46), and Saudi Arabia (27).