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 at the Tokyo Detention House and one at the Sendai Detention House. This was the first time that executions have been carried out under the current Justice Minister, Mr. Mitsuhide Iwaki. Since the Abe Cabinet assumed office for the second time, executions were conducted eight times since June 2015 with the number of 14 inmates in total. The inmate executed at the Tokyo Detention House had been given the death sentence at the trial including lay judges, and this was the first execution since the launch of the Saiban-in (lay judges) System (in 2009). In spite of an appeal made by his defense counsel, his death sentence had been finalized because he had withdrawn his appeal by himself. This does not satisfy the requirements for a mandatory appeal system in death penalty cases, which has been repeatedly requested by the UN treaty bodies. In addition, as regards the inmate executed at the Sendai Detention House, though he admitted the charges against him at the first instance, he denied the charges at the appellate proceedings and has insisted that he is innocent since.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) submitted its “Request for the Launch of a Nationwide Debate on Abolition of the Death Penalty System and Suspending Executions and Taking Immediate Measures to Prevent Miscarriages of Justice Leading to the Death Penalty” to the Justice Minister, Mr. Iwaki on December 9, 2015, 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.
These executions carried out under such circumstances are deeply regrettable and thus, the JFBA once again strongly protests such executions.
In March 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. At present, immediate appellate proceedings have been carried out at the Tokyo High Court. If the execution of Mr. Hakamada had been carried out, a grave and irreparable miscarriage of justice would have occurred. Mr. Hakamada was released after 48 years of imprisonment, and he is ailing both mentally and physically. 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 2014 were only 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 17 years, and 19 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 in 2014 that it should give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty, etc.
The results of the opinion survey in relation to the death penalty system carried out by the Cabinet in November 2014 show that: 80.3% of the respondents said that “the death penalty is unavoidable,” and of those, 40.5% said that “the death penalty could gradually be reduced and abolished in the future.” In addition, if life imprisonment without parole is introduced, while 37.7% of the respondents said that “it would be better to abolish the death penalty,” 51.5% responded that “the death penalty should not be abolished.” As such results indicate, it is necessary to discuss the matters surrounding the abolishment of the death penalty.
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 government 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.
December 18, 2015
Japan Federation of Bar Associations