Japan: Man hanged as secretive executions continue

Secretive executions can’t hide the fact that Japan is on the wrong side of history when it comes to the death penalty, Amnesty International said after a death row inmate was hanged on Friday.

The Japanese government cannot hide the fact that it is on the wrong side of history, the majority of the world’s states have turned away from the death penalty.
Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

Kenichi Tajiri, 45, was executed at Fukuoka Detention Centre in the early hours of Friday. He was sentenced to death in 2012 for two murders committed in 2004 and 2011. 

“The death penalty never delivers justice, it is a cruel and inhumane act. The Japanese government cannot hide the fact that it is on the wrong side of history, the majority of the world’s states have turned away from the death penalty.”

The execution is the third to be carried out in Japan in 2016 and the 17th under Prime Minister Abe’s government.

The hanging comes a month after the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations formally adopted a policy calling for an end to the death penalty. Among other things, the lawyers’ group highlighted the risk of wrongful convictions and the lack of evidence that the death penalty reduces crime.

“Instead of signing further death warrants, Minister of Justice Katsutoshi Kaneda should listen to the many voices opposing the death penalty, such as the United Nations and these respected lawyers, and work to end its use in Japan,” said Hiroka Shoji.

Secretive exeuctions

Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours’ notice, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families, lawyers and the public are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.

Secret executions are in contravention of international standards on the use of the death penalty. This and the lack of other adequate legal safeguards for those facing the death penalty in Japan has been widely criticized by UN experts.

This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel and a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases. Several prisoners with mental and intellectual disabilities are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.