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Talk of the day -- Replacing the death penalty with life sentence

2010/10/16 13:36:46

Taiwan's resumption of executions of death row inmates on April30, the first time the death penalty has been carried out in thecountry since December 2005, has triggered heated debates on whetheror not capital punishment should exist in a country that advocateshuman rights.

The execution incurred the European Union's criticism; it urgedTaiwan to resume the de facto moratorium on the death penalty pendinglegal abolition and a policy toward eventual abolition of the deathpenalty in line with the global trend toward universal abolition.

A local newspaper reported Saturday that progress has been madein the Ministry of Justice's efforts to gradually abolish capitalpunishment.

The following are excerpts from the local media coverage of theissue:

United Daily News:

A panel tasked by the ministry with studying the feasibility ofthe abolition reached a consensus Friday that suggests replacing thedeath penalty with "a special life sentence" that requests theinmates subjected to the punishment not be eligible for parole.

The panel also recommended revising laws to adopt more specificstandards in the review of parole applications by prison inmatesserving a life sentence, such as categorically requiring that theconvicts should stay in jail for at least 25 years but no more than40 years.

Ministry statistics showed that on average, inmates serving lifeimprisonment sentences in Taiwan stay in jail for 12.8 years beforethey are set free on parole, shorter than in neighboring countrieslike Japan, in which the average period inmates on permanentimprisonment are kept in jail reaches 20 years.

The ministry believes a stricter parole reviewing system wouldencourage judges to hand down the life sentence instead of deathpenalty on the defendants who are convicted of committing brutal andinhumane crimes.

However, some family members of the victims of crimes questionwhy the country has to spend a fortune to keep those people who hadcommitted heaven-condemned crimes alive.

Some professionals in the judicial sector think that lifelongpunishment is more cruel than the death penalty, saying that lifeimprisonment without the chance of parole would make people live inthe shadow of hopelessness. "Isn't that a kind of inhumanetreatment?" they asked. (Oct. 16, 2010).

(By Elizabeth Hsu)