14 July 2020 :
Death row inmates will soon be required to wear a hood when they are being executed to make the job of the executioner less traumatic, according to new rules announced by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) that will take effect on 15 July 2020.
At present, it is not compulsory for a prisoner to wear a hood during his or her execution.
The new rule is among amendments to the Death Penalty Procedural Rules recently made by the MOJ. They are administrative rules and therefore do not have to be approved by the Legislature.
A MOJ official who spoke on condition of anonymity told CNA that the new requirement on hoods was proposed by the judicial and prison police officers union. Judicial police officers are responsible for carrying out executions in Taiwan.
Being an executioner is an extremely stressful job that requires comprehensive training beforehand and psychological consultations afterwards, according to the official, which is why the ministry agreed to the new rule.
A judicial police officer responsible for executions told CNA on condition of anonymity that one of the major taboos of being an executioner is to see the person being executed "eye to eye."
Amending the rules to require a prisoner to wear a hood will lower the chances of that happening, said the officer, who noted that judicial officers get NT$3,000 (US$100) added to their salary when they carry out an execution.
Another amendment to the rules requires the MOJ to consider other execution options to make executions more humane in accordance with related international covenants on human rights.
The Death Penalty Procedural Rules currently stipulate that capital punishment be carried out either by lethal injection or by shooting.
In practice, however, Taiwan has executed all of its death row inmates by shooting since the rules first took effect in 2002.
According to the rules, the person to be executed is first injected with a strong anesthetic to leave him or her unconscious before a single shooter, an on-duty judicial police officer, fires a pistol at the back of the prisoner's heart.
If the prisoner consents to donate his or her organs, then the bullet is fired at the prisoner's brain.
A new provision added to the rules is that a prisoner about to be executed can leave a last message by audio or video recording, but it cannot last longer than 10 minutes.
The message is to be delivered to a designated family member or next of kin within 24 hours of the execution.
Religious rituals can be held before the person's execution based on his or her religious beliefs, the new rules said.
The MOJ will hold a round of discussions with related experts and NGO groups on 13 July before the amendments are scheduled to take effect on 15 July.
Taiwan has a total of 38 death row inmates, with the most recent execution conducted on April 1.