Taiwan – First execution since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office on May 20, 2016

President Tsai’s administration carries out first death penalty

2018/08/31 21:03:52

CNA file photo

Taipei, Aug. 31 (CNA) A death row inmate was executed Friday for killing his ex-wife and daughter in 2014 — the first execution since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office on May 20, 2016.

The man, identified as Lee Hung-chi (李宏基), was executed in Kaohsiung after Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥), who was sworn into office July 16, signed the order to carry out the execution Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Justice, Lee was executed because he murdered his ex-wife in a public place surrounded by witnesses and consistently displayed no remorse.

On Dec. 28, 2016, Lee was convicted by the Supreme Court of killing his ex-wife and daughter.

In April 2014, Lee went to the kingdergarten attended by his two daughters and tried to kidnap them. He was stopped by his ex-wife whom he stabbed to death outside the school after a quarrel.

Lee fled with one of his daughters and drove to Jianshih township in Hsinchu County, where he attempted to commit suicide and kill his daughter by burning charcoal in his car.

The two were later discovered by local police who rushed them to hospital. Lee survived the suicide attempt but his daughter did not.

The last execution carried out in Taiwan was on May 10, 2016, in which spree killer Cheng Jie (鄭捷) was executed for killing four and injuring 24 on a Taipei metro train in 2014.

Currently, 42 inmates remain on death row in Taiwan.

(By Hsiao Po-wen and Flor Wang)
Enditem/AW – Focus Taiwan, 31/8/2018

 

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 – Focus Taiwan, 31/8/2018

EU expresses dismay at execution of Lee Hung-chi

Staff writer, with CNA
The EU on Friday expressed opposition to capital punishment after the first execution under President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration, saying that Taiwan should immediately reintroduce a moratorium on the death penalty.

Lee Hung-chi (李宏基), 39, who was convicted of murder in 2014, was executed in Kaohsiung on Friday.

Lee was initially sentenced to life imprisonment by the Kaohsiung District Court for stabbing his ex-wife to death and killing his daughter by carbon monoxide poisoning in April 2014.

The High Court later changed the punishment to the death sentence and that ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2016.

In a statement released in Brussels, the EU expressed its sincere sympathy to the family and friends of the people Lee killed.

Separately, Maja Kocijancic, a spokesperson for the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic service, said that the EU is unequivocally opposed to capital punishment.

“The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity,” Kocijancic said.

At the first EU-Taiwan Human Rights Consultations in Taipei in March, participants discussed the merits of holding a broad public debate regarding capital punishment, taking into account its decline worldwide and accelerating the work of the task force on the death penalty in Taiwan, Kocijancic said.

In addition to these measures, the EU looks to Taiwan’s authorities to immediately reintroduce a moratorium on the death penalty, as recommended by international experts in March 2013, as a first step to its total abolition, she said. – Taipei Times, 2/9/2018

 

 

Taiwan’s enduring death penalty (an Article)

“…after a nearly five-year pause in executions, 33 people were executed between 2010 and 2016…”

Taiwan’s enduring death penalty

Author: Margaret K Lewis, Seton Hall University

In May 2014, a man stabbed four people to death and injured dozens on a Taipei train. He was executed on 10 May 2016 — 10 days before President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office. The pace of executions in Taiwan has waxed and waned over recent decades — after a nearly five-year pause in executions, 33 people were executed between 2010 and 2016. Today, the death penalty remains legal, popular and contentious.

A pro-death penalty supporter displays a white rose during a rally in front of Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, 10 April 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Treason, piracy and serious drug offences are among the crimes for which courts may impose a death sentence, although the overwhelming majority of executions in the last decade have been for murder. Retention of the death penalty is permitted but discouraged under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Taiwan adopted as domestic law in 2009.

In January 2017, a group of independent human-rights experts invited by the Taiwanese government to review compliance expressed its ‘strong regrets that there has been no progress in the abolition of capital punishment as the utmost form of corporal punishment’. Since the adoption of the ICCPR, there have been procedural adjustments — such as requiring appellate sentencing hearings in all capital cases — and a concomitant drop in the number of death sentences finalised by the courts. But there has been no change in the government’s basic position that the death penalty is legal.

The death penalty is also popular. A 2016 poll by the National Development Council found that nearly 88 per cent of the public were against its abolition. This high degree of public support is less surprising when viewed in light of the poll’s timing — it immediately followed a public outcry over the grisly murder of a four year old girl. But an earlier 2015 poll similarly found that over 80 per cent of people did not support abolition.

It is also hard to find any lawyers, judges or legal academics in Taiwan who expect this support to markedly decrease anytime soon. They hope to gradually increase public support for abolition by exploring accompanying reforms aimed at shoring up public safety, including the possibility of introducing life without parole.

Despite widespread support among the general public, the death penalty remains contentious in political circles. In 2016, a legislator proposed an amendment to the criminal law that would require the death penalty in most murder cases where the victim is a child. In contrast, at the 2016 European Union–Taiwan Human Rights Exchange Programme a group of legislators met with EU human rights experts to discuss possible alternative sentences to the death penalty.

The executive branch has likewise displayed discordant views. Wang Ching-feng, who served as president Ma Ying-jeou’s minister of justice from 2008–2010, resigned over her refusal to sign execution orders. The next minister, Tseng Yung-fu, promptly approved the execution of six people on death row and signed 21 execution orders in total. His successor, Luo Ying-shay, signed 12 execution orders during her tenure.

The current Minister of Justice, Chiu Tai-san, has been circumspect in his public remarks, calling for dialogue between those in favour of and opposed to the death penalty. President Tsai too has avoided taking a clear public stance since taking office, though in 2015 she did remark that abolition of the death penalty required both a social consensus and comprehensive complementary measures, neither of which she saw present in Taiwan.

Looking to other countries’ experiences, abolition is more often led by political elites than motivated by public clamouring against the death penalty. President Tsai has so far failed to provide such leadership. The death penalty was raised in passing at the National Judicial Reform Conference that President Tsai convened, but it was not included as a specific topic for discussion, nor was there any mention of the death penalty in the summary of major issues.

Tsai’s reluctance to push the death penalty into the spotlight is not surprising considering that her approval rating dipped below 30 per cent earlier this year. In addition, her political capital is already stretched thin with an ambitious agenda underway, including tackling controversial pension reform.

The reality of the death penalty being retained has prompted non-governmental organisations to take a multifaceted approach to curbing the use of the death penalty. For example, in October 2017 the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, Taipei Bar Association’s Human Rights Committee and Legal Aid Foundation held a conference on the death penalty.

The Taiwan Innocence Project for its part has shown that Taiwan is not immune to the worldwide phenomenon of wrongful convictions, including death penalty cases.

As 2017 draws to a close, it appears likely that it will be an execution-free year in Taiwan. But there still remains a lack of momentum for outright abolition in the executive and legislative branches, and Taiwan’s Constitutional Court has not yet intimated that it might issue a decision rendering the practice unconstitutional. As such, the death penalty is expected to linger, experiencing periods of disuse disrupted by occasional executions. This enduring use of the death penalty remains a stain on Taiwan’s otherwise steadily improving record of championing international human rights norms.

Margaret K Lewis is a Professor of Law at Seton Hall University and a Fulbright Senior Scholar at National Taiwan University College of Law. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretKLewis.

Source:- East Asia Forum, 1/11/2017

Taiwan – Miscarriage of justice averted for a man on death row for more than 10 years

Taiwan murder convict walks free after decade on death row

Taiwanese Cheng Hsing-tse was granted a retrial last year and released on bail when new evidence cast doubt on his conviction, suggesting he may have been tortured into admitting the crime. Taiwanese Cheng Hsing-tse was granted a retrial last year and released on bail when new evidence cast doubt on his conviction, suggesting he may have been tortured into admitting the crime.PHOTO: AFP/TAIWAN ALLIANCE TO END THE DEATH PENALTY

TAIPEI (AFP) – A Taiwanese man who spent more than a decade on death row walked free Thursday (Oct 26) after being acquitted of murder in a retrial, boosting calls for the abolition of capital punishment.

Cheng Hsing-tse was condemned to death in 2002 after being found guilty of shooting a police officer during a gun battle in a karaoke parlour.

The death penalty was confirmed in 2006, when he had exhausted the appeal process.

But he was granted a retrial last year and released on bail when new evidence cast doubt on his conviction, suggesting he may have been tortured into admitting the crime.

The high court in central Taichung delivered its decision Thursday, overturning the original guilty verdict, saying Cheng’s confession may have been forced and that evidence pointed to another culprit firing the fatal shots.

“I’ve waited for this acquittal for 15 years,” Cheng told reporters on Thursday outside the court after the verdict.

Cheng was a follower of gangster Luo Wu-hsiung and was caught up in the gun battle after Luo fired a pistol at the ceiling and at bottles in a karaoke room in protest at the parlour’s service.

Police stormed the venue and shots were fired by both sides, killing Luo and an officer named Su Hsien-pi.

Earlier verdicts found that Cheng fired the bullets that killed Su.

But judges on Thursday said after considering evidence of the firing positions, it could not be ruled out that Luo was the killer.

The high court said in a statement that Cheng’s face had shown “obvious new bruising” during interrogations, “suggesting his confession wasn’t voluntary”.

The Control Yuan – the government’s highest watchdog – recommended the supreme court prosecutor’s office to apply for a retrial after investigating Cheng’s case in 2014.

It said police forced a confession from Cheng “by means of torture” and certain autopsy findings were ignored.

Taiwan resumed capital punishment in 2010 after a five-year hiatus. Executions are reserved for serious crimes including aggravated murder.

The last execution was in May last year of Cheng Chieh, a former college student who killed four people in a stabbing spree on a subway in 2014.

There are currently 43 convicts on death row in Taiwan, according to campaign group Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty.

Rights groups including Amnesty International have urged Taiwan’s government to abandon the practice, but polls show a majority of the public still support it. – The Straits Times, 26/10/2017

 

*Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty is a member of ADPAN