EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 22/11/94
2 December 1994
Further information on UA 380/94 (ASA 22/09/94) - Two executions - fear of
JAPAN AJIMA Yukio(m), aged 44
SASAKI Kazumitsu(m), aged 66
On 1 December 1994, Ajima Yukio and Sasaki Kazumitsu were reportedly executed.
These are believed to be the first executions this year, but in line with its
usual policy, the Japanese Government has refused to give official confirmation.
Amnesty International fears that the Ministry of Justice may have ordered more
executions, following the results of a public opinion poll on the death penalty
published last week.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, as the ultimate
form of cruel and inhuman punishment. It is also concerned at the excessive
secrecy surrounding executions in Japan.
Ajima Yukio, a convicted murderer, had been under sentence of death for 16
years. Both men were convicted murderers. The executions were carried out in
secret in Tokyo and Sendai Detention Centres.
On 25 November the government published the results of an opinion poll showing
that the majority of the public favoured retention of the death penalty. Amnesty
International is now concerned that the government may use this result to justify
further executions before the end of the year. Death penalty opponents are
concerned that these latest executions were ordered as a hasty response to
the poll, without allowing adequate time to study its results.
Seven men were executed during 1993, more than in any year since 1976 and 57
are now believed to be under finalized sentence of death. They include four
prisoners who have been under sentence of death for over 20 years. A trend
in recent years towards abolition now appears to have been reversed. Although
there were no executions between late 1989 and 1993, there have been nine
executions since then.
Executions in Japan are carried out in secret, by order of the Minister of
Justice. They are not announced to the family or lawyer of the prisoner concerned
and prisoners themselves may only be informed a few hours before the execution
takes place. The Ministry of Justice does not release the names of executed
prisoners and always refuses to confirm or deny that an execution has taken
place. The Minister of Justice said recently that this policy may be
Conditions for prisoners under sentence of death are believed to be harsh.
Many are held in solitary confinement and are denied access to anyone except
selective relatives and their lawyer. Ajima Yukio had filed a lawsuit against
the state for denying him access to his adoptive parent.
The abolitionist movement in Japan has gained momentum over the past few years.
Supporters include a former Supreme Court judge, a former Minister of Justice,
lawyers and a growing number of parliamentarians.