Friday 27 February 2009

The death of capital punishment . . .

. . .a long way off in mainland China, but getting closer in Taiwan. I spoke to Saul Lehrfreund after a talk he gave at Sussex last night on working for commonwealth prisoners on death row. Here's the low-down:

1) Mainland China has been opening up to human rights lawyers at least a bit in the past few years, allowing him to give talks in Beijing Normal and Renmin Universities. This might not seem like much, but when you remember how human rights activists in other fields have been treated, it is quite surprising to find a foreign human rights lawyer being allowed to speak to Chinese academics.

2) No executions have occured in Taiwan since 2005, nor does it seem likely that any will occur under the present government. This still leaves 31 people on death row as of October last year, but there is only so long that people can be held on death row before it becomes possible for their death sentence to be challenged as unusually cruel. Whilst the US has allowed people to spend as long as 33 years on death row without this becoming "cruel and unsual" under the US constitution, it is quite possible for other courts to rule differently, as indeed the Privy Council did with Carribean prisoners held on death row for more than 5 years.

Obviously the both sides of the Taiwan strait follow the civil law tradition, so French, German, and other mainland European lawyers are perhaps better placed to aid the campaign to end the death penalty - especially once it becomes possible to directly aid lawyers representing prisoners on death row, but it is encouraging to see British lawyers lending a hand as well.

1 comment:

Mark Anthony Jones said...

FOARP - this is indeed very encouraging news.