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Human rights groups condemn political use of capital punishment

2018/08/31 21:54:53

Photo courtesy of Taiwan Association for Human Rights

Taipei, Aug. 31 (CNA) Human rights groups on Friday condemned the execution of a death row inmate, alleging it was timed to boost the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) chances in the nine-in-one local government elections on Nov. 24.

Lee Hung-chi (李宏基), who was sentenced to death in 2016 for stabbing to death his ex-wife and later killing his daughter as part of a murder-suicide by burning charcoal in his car in April 2014, was put to death at 3:37 p.m. Friday, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) confirmed.

Lee was the first death row inmate to be executed since the DPP assumed office on May 20, 2016, following the execution on May 10, 2016 of Cheng Chieh (鄭捷) who killed four people and injured 24 in a knife attack on a Taipei Metro train in May 2014.

Activists representing human rights groups scheduled a press conference at 6p.m. in front of the MOJ in protest, holding placards that read "killing for votes."

"Why did the DPP government chose to enforce an execution now, two or three months away from the elections?" asked Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎), secretary-general of Taiwan Association for Human Rights. "They were aiming at getting more votes."

The DPP flies in the face of covenants upheld by the United Nations and international human rights organizations that the issue of capital punishment should not be used for political purposes or electoral gain, Chiu said.

"How is the DPP different from the Kuomintang (KMT)," Chiu said. "Does the DPP truly believe in the universal value of abolishing the death penalty?"

During the previous KMT administration from 2008-2016, former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) broke the moratorium Taiwan observed from 2006-2009, carrying out 33 executions, several of which were criticized for being timed to gain political leverage.

The DPP has recently supported the abolition of the death penalty. Point 26 of the DPP Action Plan adopted in 1999 said the party would "respect life, prevent miscarriages of justice and search for ways to end the use of capital punishment."

However, in the previous DPP administration under former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) from 2000-2008, 32 death row inmates were executed before he introduced the moratorium in 2006.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has avoided taking a position on the issue since she assumed office, except her remarks in July that the death penalty remains on the books and that the MOJ would decide under what circumstances an execution could be carried out.

During the presidential election campaign in 2015, Tsai said that abolition of the death penalty is contingent on whether the country has reached a consensus on the issue and alternative measures are in place.

Head of Covenants Watch Huang Song-lih (黃嵩立) told the press conference that the DPP administration "made an erroneous decision" to carry out the execution.

"President Tsai has repeatedly declared that human rights are the principle on which her governance is based," Huang said. "But the execution demonstrates that her administration has reneged on its promise to gradually move the country toward abolition."

In late July, soon after taking office, Justice Minister Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said that the government's policy to gradually move toward abolition of the death penalty remains unchanged.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)
Enditem/AW