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Government backs enforcing death sentences in line with law

2011/03/04 23:12:22

Taipei, March 4 (CNA) The government must enforce capitalpunishment verdicts in accordance with the law as Taiwan is a countrythat upholds the rule of law, Presidential Office spokesman LoChih-chiang said Friday.

Lo was reacting to the Ministry of Justice's (MOJ's) confirmationthat five inmates on death row had been executed earlier in the day,potentially dealing the country's human rights image a severe blow inthe international community.

The executions came less than a year after the ministry resumedenforcing death sentences in April 2010, when it ended an unofficialmoratorium on the execution of death-row inmates that had existedsince 2005.

The resumption of the practice was widely criticized by theinternational community, including by Amnesty International and theEuropean Union.

Lo acknowledged that abolishing capital punishment is aprevailing trend in many countries around the world, but he said mostTaiwanese people have yet to reach a consensus on the issue.

With the public divided on whether the death penalty should beabolished, Lo said, it will take time to forge a consensus throughrational discussion.

"And until capital punishment is formally abolished, legallymeted out death sentences must be enforced in accordance with thelaw. Otherwise, there should be justifiable reasons to deferenforcement of those verdicts," Lo said.

On criticism that the latest executions seemed to contradictPresident Ma Ying-jeou's previous pledge to reduce the use of capitalpunishment, Lo said Ma's stance has remained consistent since hisstint as justice minister more than a decade ago.

"Reducing the use of capital punishment is one thing. Imposing amoratorium on legally issued death penalty verdicts is another, " Losaid.

In line with the policy of limiting the use of capitalpunishment, Lo said Taiwan has invalidated legal provisions thatmandated the death sentence as the only penalty for specific crimes.

According to the MOJ statement, the five-death row inmates wereexecuted Friday evening after Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fusigned their execution decrees earlier in the day.

The five inmates were identified as Guang Chung-yen, WangKuo-hua, Chung Teh-shu, Wang Chih-huang and Chuang Tien-chu, thestatement said.

Three of them -- Wang, Chuang and Guang -- signed pledges todonate their organs before their executions.

Their bodies were sent to Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospitalin Kaohsiung City and Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in New TaipeiCity to have their organs removed for transplant to suitablepatients, the statement said.

After Friday's executions, there remained 40 convicts on deathrow, according to official tallies.

The death penalty was last carried out in Taiwan on April 30,2010, when four death row inmates were executed. They were the firstexecutions since 2005.

The lack of executions since 2005 drew attention early last yearwhen then Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng, who opposed capitalpunishment, insisted on stays of execution for death row inmates.

Wang resigned on March 11, 2010 following an outcry from victimsof violent crime and their families. Tseng, who succeeded Wang to theposition, has promised to carry out the death penalty according tothe law.

Tseng apologized Friday evening for failing to tell the truthearlier in the day that he had signed the decrees in the morning toexecute the five inmates.

"I had to withhold the information until after they wereexecuted, " Tseng told reporters after attending a Legislative Yuansession in the evening.

He said all of the five executed inmates had been involved infelonies, including serial rapes and killings, and that their caseshad long been closed.

(By Sherry Tang and Sofia Wu)