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Japan should adopt death penalty moratorium

Three men were executed in Japan on Thursday 11 September. Amnesty International has called for the government to immediately adopt a moratorium on executions. The organization called on new Japanese Minister of Justice Yasuoka Okiharu to conduct a thorough re-examination of the country's death penalty policy after Mantani Yoshiyuki (68), Yamamoto Mineteru (68) and Hirano Isamu (61) were killed by hanging. Their executions bring the total this year to 13. They are the first executions since Yasuoka Okiharu took office on 2 August and are further evidence of Japan's intent to continue sanctioning the state taking of life. There are currently around 102 people on death row in Japan. The prison authorities usually carry out executions in secret. Officials notify death row inmates just hours before the execution and inform family members only after the execution has taken place. Once the appeals process is complete, a death row prisoner in Japan may wait for years or even decades before execution. This practice means that these prisoners can be executed at any time and live in constant fear of execution. When the UN Human Rights Council reviewed the human rights situation in Japan in May 2008, they expressed particular concern about the death penalty. A number of states urged Japan to adopt a moratorium on executions in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution (62/149), which calls for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty.