China Regional Action Network – October 2008
Taiwan: Liu Bing-lang, Su Chien-ho and Chuang Lin-hsun, death penalty
On the night of March 23-24,1991 Yeh In-lan and her husband Wu Ming-han were stabbed to death at their home in the town of Hsichih in Taiwan. Five months later, on August 13, 1991, police traced a fingerprint left at the scene of the crime to a marine named Wang Wen-hsiao. Wang Wen-hsiao was taken into custody on August 13, 1991, and confessed to the police immediately. More than 36 hours after he had been taken into custody Wang Wen-hsiao added new information to his confession, implicating his brother, Wang Wen-chung, and three of his brother’s classmates, whom he could not name.
Wang Wen-chung was detained soon after by police without an arrest warrant and was allegedly tortured. He named his three classmates as Liu Bing-lang, Su Chien-ho and Chuang Lin-hsun. Wang Wen-chung served two years in prison for his alleged role as an accomplice in the crime. After his release, he retracted his evidence and stated publicly that the police had forced him to implicate his classmates. Wang Wen-hsiao was executed for his part in the murders on January 11, 1992.
After numerous retrials and extraordinary appeals, Liu Bing-lang, Su Chien-ho and Chuang Lin-hsun were acquitted by the Taiwanese High Court in January 2003. However, in August 2003 the Supreme Court overturned that verdict and ordered the case to be returned to the High Court yet again. On June 30, 2007, the High Court overturned the verdict of not guilty and sentenced the men to death. In November, the Supreme Court rejected the verdict and returned the case to the High Court for another retrial. The three men are not detained at this time, but continue to face severe emotional distress as a result of the lengthy nature of the case and their fear of execution.
A large amount of physical evidence, including blood and finger prints, was found at the scene of the crime, but none of it has ever been linked to Liu Bing-lang, Su Chien-ho or Chuang Lin-hsun. Furthermore, physical evidence presented by six expert witnesses in the last trial supports the defendants’ claim of innocence, evidence that the High Court refused to consider. Physical evidence also contradicts key portions of the defendants’ confessions, including the men’s confession to the crime of rape. However, the fact that the charge of sexual assault was selectively dropped in the recent verdict places serious doubt on the overall legitimacy of the men’s confessions, as confession to the crime of rape is part of the original confession.
The men have alleged that their confessions were extracted through torture, which they have described in great detail. “(Police) put a thick yellow book against my chest and hammered me on the chest”, Liu Bing-Lan has said, “and they then hung me upside down and started pouring water and urine into my mouth.” Liu Bing-lan, Su Chien-ho and Chuang Lin-hsun all describe being beaten and having water or urine forced into their mouths. Su and Chuan also claim to have been subjected to electric shocks to their genitals, and in Su Chien-ho’s case police allegedly smeared a concentrated chemical on the wounds on his genitals caused by the electric shocks.
These allegations combined with an apparent lack of material evidence and irregularities in the investigative process suggest that this verdict is the result of a miscarriage of justice and a violation of international human rights standards for fair trials, standards which require particularly close attention in capital punishment cases. The Taiwan High Court’s judicial decisions further violates Taiwan’s own Criminal Procedure Law, revised in 2003, that precludes confessions as the sole basis of evidence, and prohibits the use of evidence extracted on the basis of torture.
Amnesty International considers the defendants to have suffered repeated miscarriages of justice over the 16 years that the case has been in the Taiwanese court system. Amnesty International opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases, as the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment, and asks the Taiwanese authorities to commute all death sentences.
The death penalty remains applicable to some 52 crimes in the Taiwanese criminal code, including non-violent crimes, such as drug related offences and some economic crimes.
Taiwan was the first government after the United States to legislate lethal injection as a form of execution. This was seen by the Taiwan authorities as a more ‘humane’ way to execute prisoners. To date, it has never been used and shooting remains the sole form of execution in practice.
Executions usually take place at dawn and are carried out by prison guards who position the prisoner on the ground, face down, and shoot him directly in the heart. Other parts on the body may be chosen if the prisoner is an organ donor. Three or more armed guards usually carry out an execution. This is witnessed by 10-20 officials, including officers of the detention center, the prosecutor and any religious counsel. Families and lawyers are not informed in advance of an execution.
Between 1994 and 2005, Taiwan executed 198 people but executions progressively decreased between 1998 and 2004. Three prisoners were executed in 2004, and again in 2005, but no executions have been carried out in 2006, 2007, 2008.
Please write polite, encouraging letters to the President in Chinese, English or your own language:
- Calling on the authorities to commute the death sentences against the Hsichih Trio and bring the case to swift conclusion in view of serious allegations that they were subjected to torture by the police and that their trial has been continuing for 17 years without conclusion;
- Immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty as provided by UN General Assembly resolution 62/149.
President Ma Ying-jeou
Office of the President
No. 122, Sec. 1, Chongcing S Road
Fax: 011 886 2 2383 2941
Salutation: Your Excellency
Postage for letters to Taiwan is 94 cents.