Japan: executions must stop, says Amnesty International

Amnesty International deeply regrets the hanging of four men — Akinaga Kaoru, 61, Nakamoto Masayoshi, 64, Nakamura Masahuru, 61 and Sakamoto Masahito, 41 — in Japan today, Thursday 10 April.

These executions bring to seven the number of executions announced in Japan in 2008.

“We are extremely concerned about the increased number of executions. We call on the Japanese government to adopt an immediate moratorium on executions in accordance with last year’s UN resolution,” said Amnesty International.

The executions have taken place despite the UN General Assembly’s adoption in December 2007 of resolution calling upon all member states to uphold a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty. The resolution (62/149) was passed by a large majority: 104 votes to 54.

Executions in Japan are typically held in secret. Until December 2007 the Ministry of Justice did not disclose the names of those executed or details of their offence. Prisoners are still only informed hours before their executions and these are carried out without prior notice to their families.

Under the Minister of Justice Hatoyama Kunio, there have been ten executions in less than six months. He announced publicly in September 2007 that he was considering scrapping the rule under the Criminal Procedure Code requiring the signature of the Minister of Justice for executions.  This will allow for death row inmates to be automatically executed within six months of the end of their appeals process.

In 2006 only 25 countries carried out executions. Among G8 members Japan is now the only country with a fully operational death penalty system: the US Supreme Court has suspended all executions until it rules on the use of lethal injections.


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