Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Addendum to Killings in Taiwan

Since above Review Meeting there have been two unacceptable developments. The first is a resumption of executions. On 19th April 2013 six condemned men were executed, with the same unjust procedures so strongly condemned in the Review exercise. What was the point of the Review exercise, if its strongest recommendations are ignored? Not only were the executions carried out, but reasoning to justify the executions to which the experts strongly protested, was brashly repeated. Nor does it appear that any account was taken of suggestions by the experts to allow legal and humane procedures to modify the undue haste and secretiveness of the executions.
A second act of provocative disdain for the Review, is a continuation of the eviction and displacement of unfortunate families, especially in the Huagang community, without the provision of alternative housing. It was already of grave concern that the land involved was the property of the Ministry of Justice, which hosted the Review process. The continuation of the expulsions against the explicit recommendations of the Experts renders null the whole Review exercise.
In the face of such provocative disdain for the review exercise it is pointless to continue any prolongation or follow-up of the review process.   

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Killings in Taiwan

The move to execute six death row inmates, Friday 19th April 2013,
was necessary and taken based on the law, says Taiwan's vice justice minister, Chen Shou-huan.
The six convicts were given the death sentence because they "tortured and killed women and children," Chen said at a press conference following the executions that were carried out in four cities — Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. "The ways they committed crimes were too brutal to show any sign of humanity and mercy," he said.
Chen noted that the six convicted murderers had all been sentenced to death in trials at a district court, the high court and the Supreme Court. Moreover, before deciding to carry out the sentences, his ministry had confirmed that there was nothing that would suggest the sentence should not be carried out on the individuals, he said.

"There was nothing that would suggest the sentence should not be carried out". The Minister has a short memory. The Government of Taiwan invited a team of 10 independent experts from 10 different countries to review Taiwan's compliance with the International Bill of Human Rights which was solemnly ratified by Taiwan in 2009. The experts met in Taipei, welcomed in person by the President of Taiwan. Over three days (25 - 27 February 2013) they heard the reports of government and closely questioned its representatives. On 1st March 2013 they issued concluding observations and recommendations. In the issues they raised, the strongest recommendation was that the Government of Taiwan intensify its efforts towards abolition of capital punishment and. as a first and decisive step, immediately introduce a moratorium on executions in accordance with resolutions of the UN General Assembly.
But regardless of his memory, the Minister also displayed his total absence of understanding of the right to life, the most basic of all human rights. In conversation with representatives of the International Federation of Human Rights in Novermber of 2012, the same minister asserted the right of Taiwan to carry out the death penalty. Oblivious of the inapplicability of the ancient tribal origin of its source, the Minister quoted "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' to justify Taiwan's death penalty policy. He was then, and is today, completely unaware that this principle is in total contradiction to an understanding of justice in a modern democratic state, and of the priority of human rights among the family of nations.
"No man is an island ..... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind"
John Donne 1572 - 1631
Is Taiwan serious in its wish to participate in the worldwide advance of human rights, or was the exercise of February 25 -27, a meaningless showpiece?

Friday, April 05, 2013

Rehabilitation for Prisoners under Sentence of Death

On Tuesday last, 2nd April, Sutawan Chanprasert, a Thai student in the Master of Arts Program in International Development Studies (MAIDS), Faculty of Political Studies, Chulalongkorn University, successfully defended a thesis on Rehabilitation for Prisoners under Sentence of Death in a Human Rights Perspective: A Case Study of Bang Kwang Central Prison.
The title of her thesis is an oxymoron, surely rehabilitation and sentence of death are incompatible! Nevertheless, there is a unique conjunction of a Thai condition and a window of opportunity which made her research possible. Thailand persists in handing down the death penalty; there are currently 687 prisoners condemned to death, 618 men, mostly detained in Bang Kwang prison, and 69 women. The research of Sutawan relates to the male prisoners held in Bang Kwang. The window of opportunity, of which she ingeniously availed, was the possibility of interviewing 10 of these prisoners, 5 prison authorities, 3 former prisoners, and one informed external person. The recently imposed "White Prison" policy which consists of a strict isolation of prisoners would surely hinder such interviews. The resolution of the apparent anomaly whereby rehabilitation could, and should, coexist with a death sentence lies in the fact that while prisoners are sentenced to death at a rate higher than one per week, very few are actually executed. Six have been executed in the last ten years. Eventually the large majority of prisoners benefit from a royal commutation of sentence to life imprisonment, and subsequent reductions in sentence which result in eventual release.
Prisoners remain under sentence of death for up to ten years until all legal procedures are completed. Such prisoners have been excluded from rehabilitation programmes. They live their lives in a no man's land of inactivity and are the subject of the thesis.
It is a innovative and unique investigation, with immense implications for the human rights of prisoners, and the very persistence of capital punishment. This website will report details of the thesis when the final formalities of thesis revision are completed and the 24 year old Sutawan graduates. Meanwhile, deathpenaltythailand hails her achievement.