Foreign experts want Taiwan to stop executions

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Foreign human rights experts called on Taiwan Friday to freeze executions and to take appropriate measures to safeguard the health of former President Chen Shui-bian.
The government has invited ten overseas experts to evaluate the country’s application of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by the Legislative Yuan in 2009 and of last year’s national human rights report. The group presented the conclusions of its visit and 84 suggestions at a news conference in Taipei Friday.
Even though the two international covenants did not ban the death penalty, abolishing it was a global trend with the United Nations passing resolutions asking for a freeze of executions, the experts said.
Over the past three years, executions had not only not been stopped but had even increased, causing the foreign observers to renew their call for a gradual abolition of the death penalty. The government should first stop all executions and then work toward the ending of death sentences, they said.
The experts also called on the government to take appropriate measures for the treatment of jailed ex-President Chen. The Control Yuan, the nation’s top government watchdog, approved a motion last week criticizing the Ministry of Justice for the way it dealt with Chen.
The former president was moved to the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei last September, but according to footage released last week, his condition has deteriorated further. His wife, Wu Shu-jen, paid him two visits this week and said he had fallen several times. The footage showed him shaking, stammering and having major difficulties in moving around without support.
The foreign experts also said the government should reduce pressure on the prison population by relaxing drugs policies and increasing the use of parole. They also recommended the formation of an independent human rights commission.
The delegation of human rights specialists included Vienna University law professor Manfred Nowak, former UN human rights expert Eibe Riedel and New York University professor Jerome Cohen.
Frederic Laplanche, head of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan, described the experts’ visit as a “very positive development.” He said that even though there was still room for improvement in both the European Union and Taiwan, he hoped the latter could make progress on the issue of the death penalty.
Taiwan executed six death row prisoners in an unexpected move last December. More than 50 are still on death row. Most opinion polls indicate high levels of public support for the death penalty.
The Ministry of Justice has defended its stance by saying that under existing laws, it was compelled to follow court verdicts and conduct executions.