Int'l human rights experts advocate end to executions
By Joseph Yeh, The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- A group of international human rights experts yesterday urged the government to speed up its efforts to scrap the death penalty by halting all executions of death row inmates as a first step.
March 2, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
“We strongly recommend that the government of Taiwan intensifies its efforts toward abolition of capital punishment and, as a first and decisive step, immediately introduce a moratorium on executions in accordance with the respective resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly,” Manfred Nowak, a member of the group, said yesterday in Taipei.
Until the final abolition of capital punishment, the government of Taiwan should ensure that all relevant procedures and substantive safeguards relating to the imposition and execution of capital punishment are scrupulously adhered to, he added.
Nowak noted that Taiwan had previously promised to move toward abolishing the death penalty, but in fact the number of executions has increased over the past two years.
“Taiwan is among a small minority of only 20 states worldwide having carried out executions,” he pointed out.
Nowak, a law professor at the University of Vienna, also noted the seriousness of the overcrowding in Taiwan's prisons, during yesterday's conference in Taipei.
Gov't Urged to Address Chen's Health Problem
Overcrowded prisons lead to a variety of human rights problems, such as poor hygienic and health standards and a lack of privacy, the professor said.
He and the group of experts recommend improvements in prison health services by transferring the responsibility to the Department of Health.
“In this context, we appeal to the Taiwan government on humanitarian grounds to take appropriate action in relation to the serious health problems of former President Chen Shui-bian,” he added.
The Austrian professor made the comments during a press conference yesterday to unveil a concluding observation report submitted by him and another nine international panelists invited to review Taiwan's first human rights report over the past week.
They were also here to review the implementation of two United Nations covenants, namely, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed by President Ma Ying-jeou in 2009.
After signing the two covenants, Ma then unveiled the nation's first national human rights report on the progress Taiwan has made in implementing the two covenants last year and invited the group international experts to review the report.
The invitation, however, hit a snag after the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) executed six death row inmates last December.
Prior to the executions, two of the experts sent a joint letter to Ma, asking that Taiwan halt the executions, and they later expressed regret at the MOJ's response that the death penalties would be carried out.
Praising Taiwan's Progress
During yesterday's press conference, the experts said even though they have pointed out many issues for Taiwan to improve on, they are all deeply impressed by the dramatic progress that has been made since 1987, when Taiwan began to emerge from a long and dark period of martial law.
The members of the review panel also included Philip Alston, law professor at New York University; Eibe Riedel, former member of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and Jerome Cohen, law professor at New York University; among others.
The panel held discussions with government officials and representatives of nongovernmental organizations from Feb. 25 to March 1.