Two men were executed by hanging in Japan on Tuesday 28 October, bringing the number of executions carried out in the country this year to 15. The executions of Michitoshi Kuma and Masahiro Takashio were the first round of executions approved by Minister of Justice Mori Eisuke since he took office on 25 September.
In 2007, Japan executed nine people. Around 100 people remain on death row.
“Japan executed three people in September and has been carrying out executions on an average of once every two months this year,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “The increasing rate of executions in Japan goes against the international trend toward abolition.”
Japan was selected by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) as one of six countries to be highlighted for the World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October this year. At this event the WCADP raised concerns about the application of the death penalty in Japan, particularly secrecy.
On 15 October, the UN Human Rights Committee considered Japan’s report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Japan has stated that it has no intention of abolishing the death penalty.
Executions in Japan are by hanging and are typically carried out in secret. Death row inmates are only notified on the morning of their execution and their families are usually informed only after the execution has taken place.
The Ministry of Justice claims this protects the families of prisoners from “shame” and reduces the mental strain on inmates. It means, however, that prisoners live in constant fear of execution. Enduring these conditions continuously for years or decades has led to depression and mental illness among death row inmates.
Amnesty International has called on the government of Japan to commute all death sentences, introduce a formal moratorium on executions as a first step toward abolition of the death penalty in line with the UN General Assembly resolution on a “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” adopted last year and initiate a public and parliamentary debate on abolition of the death penalty.