Statement Protesting the Resumption of Executions, and Requesting the Provision of Adequate Medical Procedures to Death Row Inmates with Possible Mental Disabilities and Suspension of Executions of Such Persons
People’s attention to issues concerning executions has been growing because there is a possibility that at a lay-judge trial, the public who will serve as lay judges may have to be involved in cases delivering a death sentence. In addition, no execution was carried out in 2011 for the first time in 19 years. Amid the move, Mr. Toshio Ogawa, who was appointed the Minister of Justice on January 13, 2012, said at the Q & A session on executions at the press conference held on that day that he viewed giving an order of executions as part of “his duty,” implying that he would resume executions. Further, it has been said that he suggested the possibility of ending the “Ministry of Justice Study Group on the Death Penalty” set up within the Ministry of Justice by former Minister of Justice, Ms. Keiko Chiba.
The JFBA has repeatedly requested to the State that it should suspend executions (for an indefinite period of time) until nationwide discussions on the abolition of the death penalty have been exhausted. In addition, the JFBA adopted at the “54th JFBA Convention on the Protection of Human Rights,” the “Declaration Calling for the Establishment of Measures for Rehabilitation of Convicted Persons and Cross-Society (Nationwide) Discussion on the Abolition of the Death Penalty,” (the Declaration) on October 7, 2011, with a view to realizing a society without the death penalty. In the Declaration, the JFBA pointed out various problems in relation to the death penalty, including that the death penalty has a fundamental problem which will completely close the door to opportunities for convicted persons’ rehabilitation and returning to society. At the time, the JFBA urged the State again that it should immediately initiate a nationwide debate on the abolition of the death penalty and introduce a moratorium on executions while the debate is ongoing.
The international trend has been leaning towards the abolishment of the death penalty, and the Japanese government has been repeatedly warned from United Nations-related institutions that it should suspend executions, and take immediate measures for the abolishment of the death penalty. Reflecting such trend, the JFBA believes that the State should not resume executions without initiating any public debate about the matter, for which it has not even established any policy. Therefore, the JFBA strongly opposes once again the resumption of executions under such current conditions.
What is particularly concerning is the possibility of human rights violations for execution of a death row inmate with possible mental disabilities. The JFBA warned the Minister of Justice and others a number of times concerning appeals for human rights relief as follows:
1) Death row inmates with a mental disability should be given appropriate medical procedures first and foremost; and
2) Execution should be suspended to death row inmates in a state of insanity (mentally incompetent), i.e., who has no awareness (recognition) of the fact that his/her own life will be terminated by the criminal trial, as also stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 479 (1), “Where the person who has been sentenced to death is in a state of insanity, the execution shall be suspended by order of the Minister of Justice.”
Concerning the matter in question, the JFBA issued a recommendation, warning almost the same things as above, on January 27, 2011 in the case of Mr. Iwao Hakamada, who is on death row. On October 2008, the UN Human Rights Committee (the Committee) recommended in its “Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 40 of the Covenant (concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee)” to the Japanese government that “the Committee reiterates its concern that the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty has still not been reduced and that the number of executions has steadily increased in recent years. It is also concerned that death row inmates are kept in solitary confinement, often for protracted periods, and are executed without prior notice before the day of execution and, in some cases, at an advanced age or despite the fact that they have mental disabilities.”
In addition, the Committee especially recommended that “Regardless of opinion polls, the State party should favourably consider abolishing the death penalty and inform the public, as necessary, about the desirability of abolition. In the meantime, the death penalty should be strictly limited to the most serious crimes, in accordance with article 6, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. Consideration should be given by the State party to adopting a more humane approach with regard to the treatment of death row inmates and the execution of persons at an advanced age or with mental disabilities.”
It is said that the number of death row inmates with possible mental disabilities and even in a state of “mental insanity” described above is not small. However, currently, whether such death row inmates are in a state of “mental insanity” or not is only judged by the Minister of Justice. Further, since there is no system which provides a necessary psychiatric examination on such death row inmates at the moment, there is no guarantee that an appropriate and objective judgment on conditions of such death row inmates will be done based on specialist knowledge. Under such current conditions, if execution as a result of miscarriage of justice is done, there is no way to undo it.
Therefore, as stated above, the JFBA hereby strongly requests that the State immediately initiate a nationwide debate on the abolition of the death penalty and introduce a moratorium on executions while the debate is ongoing. Specially, the JFBA urges that appropriate medical procedures should be given to death row inmates who may have mental disabilities, and execution should not be carried out on such persons.
February 15, 2012
Japan Federation of Bar Associations