Taiwan: Urgent appeal to prevent imminent execution

Appeal to stop execution after justice minister backtracks over statements made to Amnesty International on death penalty.

Amnesty International has today issued an urgent appeal against the imminent execution of a man in Taiwan after an order for his execution was reportedly signed by the Minister of Justice on 1 December.

The Minister of Justice, Shih Mao-Lin, appears to have signed the execution order just weeks after sending a letter to Amnesty International in which he promised to “give serious thought to [Amnesty International's] suggestion not to carry out any executions over the coming months”. He also stated "We must say we agree with you completely that the reliance on the death penalty as a method of crime control is illusory. We also believe that execution is not the answer [...]."

The man, Chong Deshu, was convicted of arson in August 2003. The fire led to the deaths of three people and injuries to 18 others. He was sentenced to death and has spent three and a half years on death row.

Amnesty International members are calling on the authorities to commute his sentence and that of all other death row prisoners in Taiwan.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“We are gravely concerned that this execution may be only hours away and our members are contacting the Taiwanese authorities as a matter of absolute urgency.

“The death penalty is always wrong and shocking - and it is more so in this case as the justice minister has apparently backtracked on recent remarks made to Amnesty International indicating Taiwan’s intention to end the grisly practice.”

Under Taiwanese procedures, execution is likely to take place three days after the notice of final judgment from the Ministry of Justice - that is, 4 December. However, the execution has not yet been carried out. It is possible that the Chong Deshu could be executed at any moment without notice.

The execution appears to have been delayed because the Prosecutor-General has permitted Chong Deshu's lawyer further time to review the papers in the case. His lawyer is now trying to see whether there are any further legal channels that could be used to prevent his execution.

Amnesty International had written to Shih Mao-Lin on 10 October 2006, the World Day against the Death Penalty, urging the authorities to move swiftly towards abolition of the death penalty in line with numerous commitments to do so over recent years.

Between 70 and 100 prisoners are believed to be held on death row in Taiwan, of whom at least 22 have had their sentences confirmed. Execution is carried out by a shot in the heart through the back or lethal injection although so far no-one has been executed by lethal injection in Taiwan.

So far, no executions have been carried out in Taiwan during 2006, continuing a downward trend in the use of the death penalty since 2000. Local anti-death penalty activists had hoped that 2006 would be an 'execution-free year' helping to increase momentum towards abolition.

Several Taiwanese officials have indicated support for abolition of death penalty in recent years, including President Chen Shui-bian.

The Taiwanese authorities have taken some measures to reform the death penalty system over recent months: the use of shackles for those on death row has been reduced; and legal aid has been extended to death penalty prisoners. However, the government's promises to move towards abolition have yet to be fulfilled.

  • Send an appeal to the Taiwanese authorities

Buy: The Amnesty International Report 2006 which includes information about the human rights situation in Taiwan

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