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
Two inmates were executed today, one each at the Tokyo Detention House and the Sendai Detention House. This was the sixth time that executions have been carried out under the current Justice Minister, Mr. Sadakazu Tanigaki, who has now given the go-ahead to the execution of 11 inmates in total. Considering that the inmate who was executed at the Sendai Detention House and whose application for the third request for retrial was rejected in August 2014 had been preparing to make a fourth request for retrial shortly, this situation is deeply regrettable, and 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) openly disclosing information on the death penalty system and the operation thereof to the general public; (ii) conducting research on the current situation of other countries in relation to the death penalty system; (iii) drawing a conclusion on how the death penalty system should be in the future, based on the results of such research and debate; and iv) suspending executions for an indefinite period of time until such discussions have been exhausted, and so on.
On March 27, 2014, concerning the second appeal for retrial filed by Mr. Iwao Hakamada, the Shizuoka District Court rendered a decision to launch a retrial and suspend the execution of his death sentence and detention. Even though Mr. Hakamada was released after 48 years, as he had been imprisoned for an overly long period, living under the constant fear of execution, he is ailing both mentally and physically. Furthermore, if the execution of Mr. Hakamada had been carried out, a grave and irreparable miscarriage of justice would have occurred. This decision to open a retrial of the Hakamada Case has more than amply demonstrated not only the terrible consequences that can arise through such miscarriages of justice, but also problems with the death penalty system as a whole.
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 2013 were 22, 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, however, has suspended executions for over 16 years, and 18 states in the United States have already abolished the system, thus, Japan is the only developed nation which still conducts the death penalty in a unified manner as a nation.
Considering such situations, the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee recommended to the Japanese government on July 24, 2014 that it should: (i) give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty; (ii) give reasonable advance notice of the scheduled date and time of execution to death row inmates (and their families); and (iii) improve the system including treatment of death row inmates, etc.
The JFBA has been strongly protesting against each of the executions that have been carried out, and on this occasion, we hereby vigorously protest the execution carried out today, as well as reiterating our 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.
August 29, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations