Taipei ministry worries death-row inmates may fake mental illness

Taipei ministry worries death-row inmates may fake mental illness
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TAIPEI - The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is reportedly worried that death-row inmates might feign mental illness to escape punishment, due to the MOJ's decision to postpone the executions of two inmates on the grounds of mental disorder in the six controversial executions that took place on June 5, the United Evening News has reported.

The six controversial executions were carried out in the aftermath of nationwide outrage over the slaying of an eight-year-old schoolgirl. Prior to sentencing, two of the inmates originally scheduled for execution on June 5 were replaced with other inmates, as they were deemed mentally incapacitated.

Before Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay gave the execution order, investigation teams had begun preparatory procedures for the executions with the aim of ruling out whether the death-row inmates had applied for judicial review, extraordinary appeal or retrials. The investigation teams then checked with the Presidential Office as to whether the inmates had been pardoned or were undergoing amnesty procedures.

Execution warrants were then issued for prisoners who did not have a valid reason for avoiding the death penalty.

Heeded Int'l Reports

Two years ago, the MOJ invited international human rights experts to examine Taiwan's Human Rights Report.

The experts concluded that Taiwan should not execute inmates with mental or intellectual disabilities.

While the recommendation was not binding on the government, the MOJ still decided to include mental or intellectual disabilities among the factors that could influence a decision not to issue an execution warrant.

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure Article 465, unless ordered by the Supreme Court, death-row inmates with mental or intellectual disabilities must not be executed until they are declared to be recovered by medical experts.

It was reported that the preparatory procedures for the executions of the six death-row inmates began in April, and the killing of the schoolgirl incident occurred coincidentally during the final stages of the inspection.

The MOJ investigation team investigated the original six inmates who were to be executed on June 5, but found that one of them claimed to be suffering from a mental illness, while another had undergone treatment with a psychiatrist. The MOJ subsequently opted to postpone execution on the two inmates and substituted two other death-row inmates to be executed.

Low-profile MOJ

The UEN news report claims that the MOJ has been wary of advertising the fact that those suffering from mental or intellectual disabilities could be eligible for a postponement of their execution. The UEN claims the MOJ is worried that other death-row inmates could feign a disability in order to avoid the death penalty.

However, MOJ officials have said that it is not difficult to uncover incidents of feigned mental or intellectual illnesses because of advances in medical diagnoses. Those who have a verifiable mental or intellectual illness remain exempt from the death penalty.

Taxpayers pay for the psychiatric assessment procedures. For example, the New Taipei City Prosecutor's Office had to pay approximately NT$300,000 (S$12,000) in assessment testing fees for MRT murderer Cheng Chieh in last year's MRT stabbing incident.

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