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Rights groups condemn Taiwan's executions

2010/05/01 15:29:21

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) Human rights groups on Saturday condemned thekilling of four inmates on death row by Taiwan's government, sayingthat the country's first executions since December 2005 put Taiwan'shuman rights record at risk.

Amnesty International condemned Taiwanese authorities while theTaiwanese Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) expressed its"shock and anger" upon learning that four prisoners were put to deathFriday evening after Ministry of Justice Tseng Yung-fu signedwarrants for the executions.

Chang Chun-hung, Hung Chen-yao, Ko Shih-ming and Chang Wen-weiwere executed in Taipei, Tainan and Taichung just five weeks afterformer Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng resigned amid a politicalstorm sparked by her statement that she would not sign death warrantsduring her term.

The prisoners were put to death "according to the law as the fourwere convicted of grave offenses such as murder-kidnapping andmultiple murders," the Ministry of Justice said in a statement.

The four were executed after 7 p.m., Deputy Justice Minister WuChen-hwan told the media in a press conference Friday night, addingthat the executed inmates did not request Constitutionalinterpretations of their cases.

"These executions cast a dark shadow on the country's humanrights record and blatantly contradict the Justice Minister'spreviously declared intention to abolish the death penalty, "Catherine Baber, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific DeputyDirector, said in a press release.

"The world was looking to the Taiwanese authorities to choosehuman rights, and to show leadership on the path towards abolishingthe death penalty in the Asia-Pacific. Today's executionsextinguished that hope," she added.

The executions were carried out "furtively and hastily" withoutprior notice to families of the inmates, said Lin Hsin-yi, executivedirector of the TAEDP.

The TAEDP has raised concerns over the legality of theexecutions. The Judicial Yuan accepted a request for aninterpretation of the Constitution submitted by the TAEDP on behalfof Taiwan's 44 death row inmates on April 26, and granted a deadlineof May 3 for documents from the four prisoners who were executed, Linsaid.

Starting in the previous administration under the now-oppositionDemocratic Progressive Party (DPP), Taiwan's government has voiced along-term goal of abolishing the death penalty. The currentadministration of President Ma Ying-jeou incorporated a pair ofUnited Nations covenants -- the International Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Socialand Cultural Rights -- into domestic law last year.

Taiwan reserves the death penalty for serious crimes includingaggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery.

According to most public opinion polls, over 70 percent of Taiwanpeople are in favor of the death penalty.

(By Chris Wang)