Statement Protesting Execution of the Death Penalty and Reiterating our Request for the Suspension of Executions and the Launch of a Nationwide Debate on the Abolition of the Death Penalty
Three inmates were executed today at three different locations; one each at the Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka Detention Houses. These executions are deeply regrettable due to the fact that a total of three executions of inmates were carried out, and these were the first to take place since the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (“LDP”) was returned to power. Thus, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) strongly protests these executions.
The JFBA submitted its “Request for the Launch of a Nationwide Debate on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, Suspension of Executions, and Taking Immediate Measures to Prevent Miscarriages of Justice Leading to the Death Penalty” to the Justice Minister, Mr. Tanigaki on February 12, 2013, in which we requested the following: i) to set up a meeting for experts to consider and discuss the initiation of a nationwide debate on interim issues regarding the death penalty system; ii) to openly disclose information on the death penalty system and the operation thereof to the general public; (iii) to conduct research on the current situation of other countries in relation to the death penalty system; (iv) to draw a conclusion on how the death penalty system should be like in the future based on the results of such research and debate; and v) to suspend executions for an indefinite period of time until such discussions have been exhausted, and so on. Therefore, we are utterly unable to accept today’s executions which were carried out just after we submitted such request.
The international trend has been leaning towards the abolition of the death penalty, and the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on December 20, 2012, by a record number of 111 member states calling for a moratorium on executions to be established in all States that still maintain the death penalty with a view to achieving a complete abolition of the death penalty. Under this situation, Japan’s attitude towards the death penalty system, entailing the retention of the system as well as continuing with the performance of executions, particularly stands out. The Japanese government has been repeatedly warned by United Nations-related institutions that it should suspend executions, and take immediate measures towards the abolition of the death penalty. Moreover, during the meeting entitled “Human Rights in Japan,” at the 14th Session of the Working Group on the 2nd Universal Periodic Review (hereinafter referred to as the “UPR”) of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council conducted on October 31, 2012, in which the human rights situations in Japan were the subject of a review, as many as 24 countries made recommendations regarding the death penalty, urging Japan to change its operation thereof. This clearly indicates the fact that one of the biggest human rights issues facing Japan is its retention of the death penalty system.
Moreover, in the case of two of the three inmates executed today, their death sentences had been finalized because they had withdrawn their appeals by themselves. This does not satisfy the requirements for a mandatory appeal system in death penalty cases, which has repeatedly been requested by the UN treaty bodies. For the other inmate, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the court of first instance, only to have such sentence subsequently overturned by a prosecutor’s appeal to a higher court (which handed down the death sentence.) Regarding this case, the judgments in which the death sentence was rendered were divided even among the professional judges involved in such trials. Although the Justice Minister, Mr. Tanigaki has expressed his position that he will conduct a very careful and serious review on the operation of the death penalty system, considering the fact that the executions were carried out only two months after he assumed the post, it is quite doubtful as to whether he conducted sufficient deliberation on the matter.
As stated above, on this occasion, the JFBA hereby vigorously protests the executions carried out today as well as reiterates its request that the State immediately introduce a moratorium on executions and initiate a nationwide debate on the abolition of the death penalty, by disclosing information concerning the death penalty to the general public, establishing an advisory committee at the Ministry of Justice, and taking other measures.
February 21, 2013
Japan Federation of Bar Associations