Human rights panel calls for abolition of death penalty

An international panel of human rights experts on Friday called on Taiwan to end the “cruel and degrading” practice of capital punishment.

In its report on concluding observations and recommendations, the nine-member group said it was “extremely disappointed” with the government’s inability to address the issue, despite persistent calls in Taiwan for the abolition of the death penalty .

The government-mandated panel conducted a review in Taipei from Monday to Friday of the country’s implementation of two United Nations human rights covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

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While Taiwan has significantly improved its human rights record over the years, some longstanding issues, such as the continued use of the death penalty, remain insufficiently addressed, Austrian human rights lawyer Manfred Nowak said. at a press conference in Taipei.

“Taiwan is already one of a very, very few countries in the world that still maintains the death penalty, and the arguments repeated over and over again by the government are far from convincing,” said Nowak, who was the UN special rapporteur. on torture from 2004 to 2010.

“We urge the Executive Yuan to immediately declare a moratorium on executions,” he said, adding that the “cruel, inhuman and degrading” punishment violates Articles 6 and 7 of the ICCPR.

All death sentences should be commuted immediately and the Minister of Justice should no longer sign execution orders, he added.

Taiwan has the potential to become Asia’s standard bearer for the recognition and application of international human rights, but it will never achieve this as long as the death penalty remains part of its criminal justice system, it said. -he declares.

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said the government remained committed to phasing out capital punishment, but there was no public consensus on the issue.

The government has taken note of suggestions made by international human rights experts and will meet to discuss the possibility of declaring a moratorium on executions, Lo said.

Taiwan last executed a prisoner in 2020.

The 38 people currently on death row have taken the matter to the Constitutional Court and received a stay of execution guaranteed by law, he said.

The panel’s report also pointed to the lack of legislation to combat torture and discrimination in Taiwan.

“Information provided by the government clearly shows that there are numerous allegations of torture against law enforcement officials in Taiwan,” the report said, adding that these cases have only led to disciplinary action at the national level. place of criminal prosecution.

The nation has yet to have torture — the crime of inflicting severe mental or physical pain or suffering on a helpless person for a particular purpose as defined by international law — incorporated into its Penal Code, Nowak said.

Taiwan should adopt a “comprehensive anti-discrimination law that addresses different types of discrimination”, which could be applied to both the public and private sectors, he added.

Human rights groups in Taiwan echoed the panel’s call.

At a press conference in front of the Ministry of Justice building in Taipei, Huang Yi-bee (黃怡碧), who is the managing director of Covenants Watch – which was formed by a coalition of non-governmental organizations determined to introduce a comprehensive anti-discrimination law – said the government had commissioned academics to research the issue, but had not responded to requests for consultation from local groups.

Although not a member of the UN, Taiwan ratified the ICCPR and ICESCR as domestic law in 2009.

Since 2013, the government has invited human rights experts to Taiwan every four years to review the country’s implementation of the covenants and interact with government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations before publishing their findings. and recommendations.

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