Taiwan: The ‘Hsichih Trio’ were Found Not Guilty

On 31 August 2012, after 21 years of legal challenges, Su Chien-ho, Liu Bing-lang and Chuang Lin-hsun, known as the ‘Hsichih Trio’ were found not guilty by the High Court.

ADPAN welcomes this decision. ADPAN member the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) also welcomes this but notes the remaining challenges ahead:

“We are pleased to see the Hsichih Trio are finally freed. However, if there’s no methodical reform of the judicial system, to reverse a wrongfully convicted case is like winning the lottery. We have a slim chance to win and we may not respond to the doubtful cases promptly. The Taiwanese authority should abolish the death penalty now; otherwise, a moratorium should be implemented before the abolition to avoid more wrongful executions.”

This case has, according to the Judicial reform Foundation, “punctured the myth that they judicial system never makes mistakes in death penalty cases”.

The ‘Hsichih Trio’ became the focus of a major global human rights campaign, spurred on by the TAEDP, ADPAN, AI and other civil society groups. Su Chien-ho, Liu Bin-lang, Chuang Lin-hsun and Wang Wen-hsiao were accused of robbery and murder in a Taipei suburb also known as Hsichih, in March 1991.

As Wang Wen-hsiao was a marine, he was sentenced to death and executed under military law on 11 January 1992. The other three suspects, subsequently referred to as the ‘Hsichih Trio’ were sentenced to death despite insufficient material evidence and claims that the confessions had been made under torture. All three defendants have described being tortured and ill-treated, including beatings, having water or urine forced into their mouths and receiving electric shocks to their genitals.[i]

After exhausting all their appeals, three extraordinary appeals were made to the Supreme Court and the High Court re-opened the case. They were acquitted in January 2003. They were again sentenced to death in June 2007 but these sentences were overturned in 2010.[ii] Finally, on 31 August 2012, the 3 remaining death row inmates were again found not guilty by the Taiwan High Court.[iii]

In January 2011, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice admitted the wrongful execution of Chiang Kuo-Ching, who was executed in 1997 for a crime he did not commit. In June this year, legal experts warned that under the current judicial system, other innocent people might be at risk of wrongful execution. Mr Lin, Head of Taiwan’s Judicial Reform Foundation warned that “the mistakes made in Chiang Kuo-Ching’s case are typical of mistakes still made in Taiwan” [iv].

In last year’s report ‘When Justice Fails, Thousands Executed in Asia after Unfair Trials’, ADPAN also highlighted the many unfair trial concerns in Taiwan and called upon the authorities in Taiwan to:

  • investigate reports of torture and other ill-treatment
  • ensure that all statements resulting from such coercion are completely excluded from any re-trial
  • revise their laws and change policies and practices to ensure fair trials in line with international standards.

ADPAN urges the government to place a moratorium on all executions, to commute all death sentences and to work towards the total abolition of the death penalty for all crimes.