Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taiwan Executes 5 Death Row Inmates as Political Crisis Deepens

The execution of two brothers based on evidence provided by China creates a worrying precedent for cross-strait judicial cooperation 

Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice on April 29 ordered the sudden execution of five individuals on death row in a move that has been widely seen as an attempt to distract the public amid snowballing crises over nuclear energy, a trade pact with China and a proposed experimental free-trade zone. 

Deng Kuo-liang, Liu Yan-kuo, Dai Wen-ching, and brothers Tu Ming-lang and Tu Ming-hsiung were executed by firing squad in the evening. According to Amnesty International, the suspects’ families and lawyers were not informed in advance. Although the Ma Ying-jeou administration has expressed its intention to abolish the death penalty in line with international standards, its actions have cast doubt on that commitment.Since the lifting of a de facto moratorium on the death penalty from December 2005 to April 2010, the Ma government has executed a total of 26 death row inmates. A dozen were executed between December 2012 and April 2013, in what Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called “a step backwards for Taiwan’s justice system and Taiwan’s official rhetoric in support of human rights.” Taipei has fallen back on opinion polls showing 76 percent support for the death penalty to justify inaction on the matter. 

Monday’s executions occurred amid an unprecedented political crisis on the island, and many critics of the Ma government have argued that the timing was not by accident. On the night of the executions, the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP), the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Judicial Reform Foundation, and the Taiwan Association for Innocence drew a direct link between the executions and a wave of protests against government policies, which have dragged the administration’s support rates to lows unprecedented in Taiwan’s democratic history. On March 18, activists from the Sunflower Movement launched a three-week occupation of the Legislative Yuan (LY) over the controversial Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA), an agreement signed in secrecy with China and which critics claim did not receive proper review and scrutiny. The occupation followed a series of protests stemming back to June 2013, when the pact was signed in Shanghai, that were altogether ignored by the government. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here. (Photo by the author)

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