2006 must remain a year without executions!

Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) express their deepest concern about the risk of imminent execution of Mr. Chong Deshu, on the death row in Taiwan since more than three years.

Mr. Chong Deshu was condemned in August 2003 for arson which led to the death of three people and injured 18 others. His execution order was signed on December 1st, 2006 by the Minister of Justice, Mr. Shi Mao-lin.

Normally, the execution is carried out within 3 days of such signature. However, thanks to the mobilisation of TAEDP, Chong’s lawyer, appointed by the Legal Aid Foundation to assist him, was granted access to review his client’s files. He filed an extra-ordinary appeal and if the Supreme Prosecutor General accepts to file the extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court, the case can be sent back to the Minister of Justice. Meanwhile, Mr. Chong Deshu may be executed at any time. TAEDP also applied for a constitutional review of the death penalty to the Grand Justice.

“We call upon the Minister of Justice to review his decision and the President Chen Shui-bian to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment”, said Siobhan Ni Chulachain, Vice-President of FIDH. “When we met with them in September 2005, and again in June 2006, the President and the Minister of Justice told us that the abolition of the death penalty is one of the government’s core political goals. This promise should not be broken”, added Ms. Ni Chulachain.

The number of executions carried out in Taiwan has been declining each year since 2000 and, so far, no executions have taken place in 2006. “Expectations are high throughout the international community that Taiwan will join the world movement towards abolition. Executing Chong now would give a very negative signal”, added Dr. Wu Chih-kuang, Deputy Convener of TAEDP.

Since the release of the FIDH/TAEDP report on the death penalty last June, the Judicial Yuan has agreed that the Legal Aid Foundation should be tasked with defending those on death row and it has started providing legal assistance to those facing imminent execution. Furthermore, in response to recommendations made by FIDH and TAEDP to cease the practice of shackling prisoners, in accordance with international law, the Taiwan government has taken some initial steps to raise the issue of conditions of detention with the prison authorities. The willingness of the authorities to engage in dialogue with civil society on the issue of the death penalty is also a step forward.

“It is time for the government to commit publicly to a timetable for abolition, and to adopt a moratorium on executions with immediate effect”, concluded FIDH Vice-President. “By abolishing the death penalty, Taiwan would stand to gain increased recognition from the international community as a modern democratic state, and would set an example for the entire region”, she concluded.

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