Abolishing the Death Penalty : Time for action


The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) today release a joint report on the death penalty in Taiwan: “The Death Penalty in Taiwan: Towards Abolition?” The report is based on the results of an international fact-finding mission conducted by FIDH in September 2005, in collaboration with TAEDP, into the administration of the death penalty in Taiwan, including the conditions of detention of prisoners on death row. The report further documents the serious shortcomings of the criminal justice system in Taiwan. Today FIDH representatives are meeting with the authorities in Taiwan to press for the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

Since 2000, the authorities in Taiwan have expressed a commitment to abolishing the death penalty. But progress towards abolition has been slow. A transitional approach has been adopted, gradually reducing the number of offences carrying the death penalty and abolishing it in respect of persons under 18 and over 80 years of age. Despite these moves in the right direction, the government has made no commitment to a timetable for abolition, nor has it expressed its views on the adoption of a moratorium.
The report highlights serious concerns regarding the conditions of detention of prisoners in Taiwan. Although there has been some improvement in conditions in recent years, FIDH and TAEDP report severe problems of overcrowding and inadequate medical treatment for prisoners, requiring urgent attention. In addition, the mission found that the use of shackles, in violation of international standards, is widespread. Prisoners, in particular those on death row, regularly have their legs chained together for 24 hours per day, in violation of the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Despite recent reforms to the criminal justice system, FIDH and TAEDP found that serious failings continue to lead to miscarriages of justice. The report highlights persistent problems including discrimination, limited access to legal representation, piecemeal and only partially implemented reforms and unsatisfactory appeals procedures. FIDH and TAEDP found that training and supervision for actors within the system, including police, is grossly inadequate, leading to failures in the collection and preservation of evidence, whilst prosecutors and judges are inclined to “rubber stamp” police findings.

The failings of the criminal justice system in Taiwan are starkly illustrated by the case of the “Hsih-chi Trio”. These three men, who recounted their experiences to the FIDH mission, have stood trial 10 times for the same charge of murder, and have spent a total of 7 years on death row. 15 years since they were first arrested, they are currently on remand awaiting a further retrial. Allegations of torture in custody, the apparent lack of any material evidence, and other extensive irregularities in the investigative process, give grave cause for concern that there has been a gross miscarriage of justice in their case.
Momentum has been gathering in Taiwan for the abolition of the death penalty and wider reform of the criminal justice system. It is now time for the government of Taiwan to take the final steps towards abolition ”, said Siobhan Ni Chulachain, “Abolition is both an obligation and an opportunity for Taiwan. By abolishing the death penalty, Taiwan will gain increased recognition as a modern democratic state, and set an example for the region”.


FIDH and TAEDP make the following recommendations to the government of Taiwan:

 To publicly adopt a clear timetable for the abolition of the death penalty;
 To adopt a moratorium with immediate effect on executions;
 To ensure that the Ministry of Justice makes publicly available comprehensive statistics on the use of the death penalty, including the numbers sentenced to death;
 To immediately cease the practice of shackling prisoners;
 To urgently address the issue of prison overcrowding through the allocation of adequate resources;
 To incorporate the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), without reservations, into domestic law.

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