Request for Suspension of Execution of Death Sentences
1. Main Point of Request
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) requests to suspend executions of 74 inmates, as of August 9, 2005, whose death sentences have been finalized.
2. Reasons for Request
- In Japan, 4 persons whose death sentences had been finalized won retrials and were found innocent. These cases proved that misjudgments existed in sentencing to death. In addition, on April 5, 2005, a court decided to retry another death penalty case, and the execution is currently legally being suspended.
However, institutional and operational problems which caused these misjudgments have not yet been fundamentally resolved and the possibility of another such misjudgment still remains.
Moreover, courts made different rulings whether a life imprisonment or a death penalty on a case one after another. It is apparent that there are no clear standards for sentencing the death penalty.
Furthermore, persons who have been sentenced to death are being detained under the illegal situation violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and resolutions of the United Nations. Severe restrictions on visits and correspondence prevent death-penalty inmates from exercising their rights to appeal for a retrial or apply for an amnesty, etc., and therefore, these obstructions should be thoroughly resolved. The Ministry of Justice, the National Police Agency and the JFBA are now holding meetings on legislation on the treatment of unconvicted inmates, etc., and issues on the treatment of death-penalty inmates have been eventually tabled in these meetings.
- The United Nations adopted the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the Abolition of the Death Penalty in 1989, and as of April, 2005, the number of countries which retain the death penalty is 76 decreased from 96 countries in 1990, and 120 countries have abolished the death penalty increased from 80 countries in 1990. The international trend is apparently towards the abolishment of the death penalty. In Japan, it is reported that public opinion polls show a large proportion of the Japanese people support the death penalty. We would like to point out, however, that information on the problems lying in the death penalty system is not disclosed at all, and we also have a doubt about the ways how the opinion polls were conducted. Thus, we believe that these opinion polls do not indicate that a majority of the Japanese people will keep supporting the death penalty. On July 7, 2005, a lawsuit was filed to revoke the state's decision not to disclose the information on the execution chamber in the Osaka Detention Center as illegal.
- Such domestic situation is far apart from the international trend, and it is essential to immediately initiate national debate whether Japan should maintain or abolish the death penalty system. The JFBA is propounding the enactment of temporary legislation (the Death Penalty Suspension Act) to suspend executions of death sentences until the national debate over retention or abolishment of the death penalty is exhausted or the problems on the death penalty system are resolved.
- Furthermore, whenever a death penalty was carried out, the JFBA repeatedly urged the Minister of Justice to suspend executions. We regret, however, that death penalties have still been carried out. Especially, past executions were carried out right after the Diet was closed, immediately before the national election, or the end of a year, etc., to avoid discussions in the Diet or attention from the public. We are afraid that death penalties may be carried out again at similar timing.
With this situation in our mind, the JFBA strongly requests the Minister of Justice to suspend executions of 74 inmates (as of August 9, 2005).
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
August 9, 2005