Taiwan - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in TAIWAN

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Head of state: Chen Shui-bian
Head of government: Su Tseng-chang
Death penalty: retentionist

Hundreds of thousands of people participated in political demonstrations for and against President Chen Shui-bian in the wake of corruption allegations against him and his family. Media organizations raised concerns for the safety of journalists covering such protests. Mandatory death sentences were abolished, but the death penalty remained as a discretionary punishment for murder and several other crimes. No executions were carried out during the year, but five people were sentenced to death and between 70 and 100 continued to be held on death row. Some legislative reforms were introduced or proposed aimed at addressing sexual harassment and domestic violence, both of which reportedly remained widespread.

Death penalty

In a break from the past, no executions were carried out during 2006 but around 70-100 prisoners continued to be held on death row, including 23 whose sentences had been confirmed by the Supreme Court. Some measures were introduced aimed at improving conditions of detention on death row. The use of shackles was reduced and legal aid was extended to death row prisoners.

In a response to campaigning by anti-death penalty activists in October, Minister of Justice Shih Mao-lin stated that reliance on the death penalty as a method of crime control was illusory and that his Ministry would push for law revisions to bring about the eventual abolition of the death penalty. However, he signed an execution order for one death row prisoner, Chong De-shu, just weeks later. His execution had not taken place by the end of the year.

The law continued to provide for imposition of the death penalty for numerous crimes by shooting or lethal injection, although so far lethal injection has not been used.

• Liu Bing-lang, Su Chien-ho and Chuang Lin-hsun, known as the "Hsichih Trio", faced their 11th retrial after being convicted of murder. The case was based almost entirely on their confessions which were allegedly extracted through torture at the hands of the police. Chuang Lin-hsun has suffered from mental illness since his time in police custody.

Freedom of expression, association and assembly

Several human rights groups formed a coalition to campaign for reforms to the Assembly and Parade Law, including to provisions requiring police permission to hold a public demonstration. Some journalists were assaulted by demonstrators or the police during political demonstrations both for and against the President.

• In May a Taipei court ruled that Lin Bo-yi, a university student charged with violating the Assembly and Parade Law, was not guilty on grounds that he was "making a petition" which did not require a permit from the police in advance. Lin Bo-yi had participated in a peaceful student rally in July 2005 outside the Ministry of Education protesting at high tuition fees. He had cited his constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and association in his defence.

Violence against women

New regulations aimed at preventing sexual harassment took effect in February.

Legislators discussed draft amendments to the Domestic Violence Law, including proposals to clarify that same-sex and unmarried couples are within its scope, but no amendments had been introduced by the end of the year.

AI country reports/visits

Statements

• Amnesty International calls on Taiwan to abolish the death penalty, October 2006 (AI Index: ASA 38/001/2006)

• Taiwan: Imminent execution of Chong De-shu (AI Index: ASA 38/002/2006)