policy of the Ministry of Justice, Taiwan with regard to abolition of the death
death penalty, with its basis in the theory of retribution, uses state power to
deprive convicted criminals of their right to live and separate them from
society forever. Since capital punishment is cruel and goes against the notion
that punishment should encompass education, abolition of the death penalty has
gradually become a global trend. Many democratic and industrialized countries
have completely or conditionally abolished the death penalty.
to completely do away with the death penalty depends on the development of
society, the maturity of concepts of law and order and popular consensus and
support. In opinion polls in recent years, around 80% of respondents have
consistently opposed abolition of the death penalty. Opposition falls to 40%
however if complementary measures such as increases in upper sentencing limits
and the threshold for parole for life imprisonment are included.
with consideration of complementary measures and education, public support for
retribution may be reoriented and a general consensus formed on gradual
abolition of the death penalty.
Ministry of Justice will employ extensive discussion and research to form a
popular consensus for abolition, and only then propose the necessary amendments
to existing laws to extend human rights protection while maintaining public
B. Measures taken and progress made by Taiwan’s government toward abolition of the death penalty
The Taiwan government signed the United Nations International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as early as 1945. The government has
sent these two covenants to the Legislative Yuan for review as a means to
implement the human rights protection ideals contained within. If passed, they
will be promulgated by the president and international human rights codes will
be adopted as domestic laws. In addition, they will be deposited with the United
Nations as a declaration of the Taiwan’s determination to protect human
rights. These covenants proclaim the value of the right to life and strict
limits on the death penalty. Insofar as we are signatories to the covenants, we
are obliged to show our sincerity regarding gradual abolition of the death
penalty so as to remove any doubts from the international community and to meet
with the ideals of the covenants.
To achieve the goal of gradually abolishing the death penalty, the
Ministry of Justice is planning to take step-by-step measures. The first step
taken is to replace the mandatory death penalty, where it applies, with
discretionary death penalty. The next step will be deliberation on raising upper
sentencing terms limits and the parole threshold for life imprisonment, in hope
that in future life imprisonment may replace the death penalty.
Progress of legal amendments:
The Ministry of Justice proposed abolition of the controversial Act
for the Control and Punishment of Banditry that mandates the death sentence
for several crimes, and at the same time drafted relevant amendments to the
criminal code. After review by and passage through the Legislative Yuan, the act
was formally abolished and the amendments promulgated on January 30, 2002.
Capital or life imprisonment thereby replaced the mandatory death penalty for
kidnap leading to murder.
The Ministry of Justice will consider abolishing mandatory capital
sentencing for the remaining crimes in Criminal Codes to which it applies and
replacing it with discretionary capital sentencing. The Ministry is currently
drafting amendments to the Criminal Code on marine piracy which mandates death
penalty in two instances. The draft shall be forwarded to the Executive Yuan for
review by the end of December of 2002.
In addition, the following revisions to the General Provisions of the
Criminal Code are being considered to complement replacement of the death
Raising the upper sentencing term limit for a single sentence to 20 years
and the to 30 years in aggravated cases.
Adoption of the essence of the U.S. “Three strikes and you’re out”
policy, imposing aggravated penalties on repeat offenders of crime sentenced
five years and up. It stipulates that second-time offenders would have sentences
increased by half and sentences of third-time offenders would be doubled.
In conjunction with amendments raising maximum sentence term and
instituting special sentencing for repeat offenders, increase of the parole
threshold for life imprisonment to minimum 30 years and minimum 40 years for
repeat offenders and increase of the period of parole for life prisoners from 15
years to 20 years.
There is an international consensus, in conformity with pronouncements of
the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Covenant
on Children’s Rights on criminal behavior by those aged under 18, on the
principle of not handing down death sentences or non-parolable life imprisonment
to minors. This consensus meets the principle of balancing the crime and its
punishment. As a result, abolition of the death penalty for those under the age
of 18 convicted of the murder of direct lineal relatives is in order.
draft proposal completed examination by the Executive Yuan and was forwarded to
the Legislative Yuan for review in October of 2002.
Statistics on execution
the past five years, the number of prisoners executed in Taiwan has shown a
clear decline, a result of greater consideration of human rights protection as
well as amendments to mandatory death penalty laws. Figures show 32 executions
in 1998, 24 in 1999, 17 in 2000, 10 in 2001 and only six to the end of October
is expected that by gradually implementing the policy described above, we can
gradually realize the idea of abolishing the death penalty.
Taiwan government has stated that human rights are the foundation of the nation
and has conducted in-depth review of legislative policy on the death penalty.
Nonetheless, concepts of retribution are still prevalent amongst the public.
Education on human rights and legal governance must be advanced. Consequently,
it may not currently be possible to do away entirely with the death penalty. The
government is implementing interim measures to replace mandatory capital
sentencing with discretionary capital sentencing so as to achieve the policy
goal to minimize the scope of capital punishment. At the same time, the
government is implementing alternative complementary measures so that the death
penalty may be phased out in stages.