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
One inmate was executed today at the Tokyo Detention House. This execution is deeply regrettable, not least because this was the third time that executions have been carried out under the current Justice Minister, Mr. Sadakazu Tanigaki, following the execution of three inmates conducted on February 21, 2013 and two inmates on April 26, 2013. Thus, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) once again strongly protests such 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) setting up a meeting for experts to consider and discuss the initiation of a nationwide debate on interim issues regarding the death penalty system; ii) openly disclosing information on the death penalty system and the operation thereof to the general public; (iii) conducting research on the current situation of other countries in relation to the death penalty system; (iv) drawing a conclusion on how the death penalty system should be in the future, based on the results of such research and debate; and v) suspending executions for an indefinite period of time until such discussions have been exhausted, and so on.
The current case proceeded as follows: the inmate was originally sentenced to life imprisonment at the court of first instance, but the High Court overturned this decision and sentenced him to death. Opinions were divided among the judges as to whether or not the severity of the case was sufficient to deserve the death penalty. Once again, the death penalty in this case was executed without any progress having been made in regard to the disclosure of information and nationwide debate in relation to death penalty and its operation. Accordingly, we are entirely unable to accept today’s execution which was carried out despite our having submitted such request.
Although the public is required to play a role in handing down a death penalty sentence under the Saiban-in (lay judge) system, a public debate regarding whether to maintain or abolish the death penalty system has not yet been carried out in any shape or form.
The international trend has been leaning towards the abolition of the death penalty, a total of 140 countries have already abolished or suspended execution of the death penalty. While the number of countries which retain the death penalty is currently 58, the countries which actually conducted the death penalty in 2012 were 21, with such number including Japan. Among the 34 OECD member countries, regarded as developed nations, only three countries (Japan, South Korea and the United States) retain the death penalty system. South Korea and 18 states of the United States, however, have already abolished or suspended the system, thus, Japan is the only country which still conducts the death penalty in a unified manner as a nation. In fact, only recently, Japan was recommended to consider the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT), issued on May 31, 2013.
As stated above, on this occasion, the JFBA hereby vigorously protests the execution 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.
September 12, 2013
Japan Federation of Bar Associations