Taiwan pays compensation for wrongful execution
Posted: 28 Oct 2011
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President Ma Ying-jeou has apologised to the family of the executed man

Taiwan's defence ministry says it will pay $4.4m (£2.7m) in compensation to the relatives of an air force private who was wrongly executed in 1997.

Chiang Kuo-ching was found guilty of raping and killing a 5-year-old girl, but in September this year a military court overturned the conviction posthumously.

The court said Mr Chiang was innocent and had been tortured into confessing.

The case has reignited debate in Taiwan about the death penalty.

Mr Chiang was working at a military base in 1996 when the girl, whose mother also worked there, was found dead.

After he was executed, his parents spent years campaigning to clear his name.

'Lessons learned'

The case was reopened earlier this year and investigators found no evidence that Mr Chiang had been at the scene of the crime.

Another man with a history of sexual abuse has since been arrested.

A lawyer for Mr Chiang's mother said the family accepted the compensation offered.

Taiwan's President, Ma Ying-jeou, has apologised to the family.

The island's defence ministry says it has learned lessons and will not allow such miscarriages of justice to happen again.

However, campaigners against the death penalty say Taiwan's justice system cannot guarantee that mistakes will not be made in future.

In 2003, three men sentenced to death were acquitted on appeal after a court said there was no evidence linking them to the crime.

They were also found to have been tortured into confessing.

Taiwan's Supreme Court this year asked for a retrial.

No executions were carried out in Taiwan between 2006 and 2009 due to a moratorium, but the government revived the death penalty last year under pressure from the families of murder victims.

Since then, 9 death row inmates have been executed.


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Death penalty policy remains unchanged: justice minister
Source: Taiwan News, October 27, 2011


Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu reaffirmed Thursday that there has been no change in the government's policy of minimizing rather than abolishing capital punishment. "Our policy remains unchanged -- the death penalty will be used as little as possible, but will not be scrapped for the time being," Tseng said during a Legislative Yuan session. While death-row inmates will definitely be executed once all legal proceedings are completed, prosecutors have been asked to minimize recommendations of capital punishment, he said. Tseng's statements came after the United Daily News (UDN) said in a front-page story the same day that Taiwan had reversed its policy on capital punishment.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has suggested in its first-ever human rights report that prosecutors refrain from recommending the death sentence for defendants or criminal suspects, the paper said. "The suggestion aims to minimize and even avoid death sentencing," an MOJ official was quoted as saying. The newspaper cited the example of a case in Nantou County in which prosecutors recommended Wednesday either the death penalty or life imprisonment for a man charged with the death of four people. The man allegedly poisoned the four victims with a toxic industrial solvent in July. Usually, prosecutors would seek only the death penalty in such a case, the paper said. Commenting on the newspaper report, Tseng said that even though prosecutors have been asked to recommend penalties other than capital punishment, the ministry has consistently respected prosecutors' decisions. Asked whether the 51 convicts on death row will be executed, Tseng said the government's stance remaines unchanged because majority public opinion is still in favor of the death penalty, as various polls have shown. The death row prisoners "will be executed once all the relevant screening procedures are finalized," Tseng said. The execution of five death row inmates in March sparked strong protests at home and abroad. Citing MOJ officials, the UDN report said it remains unclear when next death-row executions would take place.

"There is no timetable for the executions," an official said. Although the death penalty remains valid under the current law, the official said, the MOJ has been working to gradually limit the use of capital punishment, through measures such as scrapping the regulations that list the death sentence as the only option for certain types of crime. The Judicial Yuan is also planning law revisions that, if passed, will require the Supreme Court to conduct an open debate on any death penalty case, the report said. In its human rights report that will be published early next year, the MOJ will outline steps to reduce the use of capital punishment, the paper said. The newspaper also said the MOJ will invite foreign legal scholars and internationally renowned human rights experts to help scrutinize its human rights reports and refer those reports to Taiwan-friendly countries and relevant United Nations agencies in the hope of upgrading Taiwan's human rights record. According to the MOJ human rights report, there are still nine acts that stipulate the death penalty for 57 types of crime. Over the past decade, the average time for a case to close with a death penalty verdict has been 5.8 years, with some stretching to 20 years, the UDN report said.

Source: Taiwan News, October 27, 2011

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