NGOs tout ongoing national debate over death penalty

Taipei, Nongovernmental organization (NGO) activists on Monday called for greater public participation in a national campaign to discuss alternatives to the death penalty aimed at replacing it with other punishments.

A series of 30 deliberative meetings, titled "Let's Discuss the Alternatives to the Death Penalty," have been scheduled since May to engage with people holding different views on the death penalty. So far, 10 have been held and another 20 sessions are scheduled by the middle of 2019.

"We hope to hear a wide diversity of opinions on the subject no matter whether they support retaining or abolishing the death penalty," Lin Hsin-yi (???), head of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) which initiated the campaign, said at a press conference.

Although successive governments in Taiwan have talked about ending the death penalty as a long-term goal, 35 death row inmates have been executed since 2010, the latest on Aug. 31, the first under the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

Administrations of both the Kuomintang (KMT) and DPP have cited public support for the death penalty, as suggested by numerous polls, as a main reason for not removing it from Taiwan's statute books and have made no effort to encourage public discussion on the issue.

In a society where people tend to consider "an eye for an eye" as justified, the government is obliged to facilitate public dialogue to examine such a multifaceted issue, said Huang Song-lih (???), head of Covenants Watch.

The issue of capital punishment relates to how we can best improve the country's criminal justice system and focus on the positives of society rather than a simple yes/no question, said Yang Kuei-chih (???), founder of the Plain Law Movement.

Representative of the European Union to Taiwan Madeleine Majorenko and Australia's Deputy Representative to Taiwan Susan Moore both attended the press conference, held two days ahead of the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty on Oct.10, to extend support for the deliberation campaign.

It is very important that Taiwan holds this public discussion because it provides facts and can clear up many misconceptions about the death penalty, Majorenko said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel