Statement on Executions of Death Penalty
Three inmates whose death sentences had been finalized were executed today, two at the Tokyo Detention House and one at the Nagoya Detention House.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has repeatedly requested the Ministry of Justice to suspend executions until the national debate over retention or abolition of the death penalty is exhausted. It is deeply regrettable that despite the JFBA's request, a total of 10 inmates on death row were executed for the last eight months, four inmates in December 2006 and three in April 2007 in addition to today's executions.
Regarding the death penalty, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty on December 15, 1989, which entered into force in 1991. Every year since April 1997, the UN Commission on Human Rights (reorganized into the UN Human Rights Council in 2006) adopted resolutions on the abolition of the death penalty calling upon all States that have not yet abolished the death penalty such as Japan to observe the UN Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty and to consider suspending executions, with a view to completely abolishing the death penalty. Under this situation, the number of countries which have abolished the death penalty has been steadily increasing. As of August 8, 2007, while 67 countries decreasing in number from 96 countries in 1990 still retain the death penalty, 130 countries increasing in number from 80 countries in 1990 have abolished the death penalty by law or in practice as they have not executed for more than ten years. It is apparent that the international trend is towards the abolishment of the death penalty. Furthermore, the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee against Torture on May 18, 2007, which were issued after considering the initial report of Japan, clearly pointed out problems concerning the Japanese death penalty system and recommended an immediate moratorium on executions. Today's executions which were carried out despite this recommendation are tantamount to a declaration to the international community that Japan does not respect the ratified Convention.
In Japan, four persons whose death sentences had been finalized won retrials and were found innocent (Menda, Saitagawa, Matsuyama, and Shimada cases). These cases proved that misjudgments existed in sentencing to death. However, institutional and operational problems which caused these misjudgments have not yet been fundamentally resolved and the possibility of another such misjudgment still remains. Moreover, it is pointed out as problematic that there is no clear standard for sentencing to life imprisonment or death. Today's executions were carried out amid these concerns and problems.
The JFBA issued the Recommendations on the Capital Punishment System in November 2002, advocating that a statute should be enacted, in force for a limited period of time, providing that execution of death sentences shall be suspended for such period of time, so that the issue of whether to retain or abolish the capital punishment might be discussed thoroughly and extensively by the public and necessary improvement or reforms might be made on it.
The JFBA once again urges the government to openly disclose the information on the death penalty system. It also strongly urges to suspend executions for a certain period so that the issue of whether to retain or abolish the death penalty might be discussed thoroughly and extensively by the public and necessary improvement might be made on it.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
August 23, 2007