Today, two death row inmates, one in the Sendai Detention Center and the other in the Fukuoka Detention Center, were executed.
This is the fifth execution since the beginning of this year, and the number of executed inmates during this year amounts to 15. This is the highest number in the past 30 years.
Currently Japan’s death penalty system is getting much attention from the international community, including the United Nations. Abolition of the death penalty is now the international trend and even in countries which retain the death penalty, changes such as the suspension of executions or limited usage of the death penalty are common. Adoption by overwhelming numbers of the Resolution in the United Nations General Assembly which calls for a moratorium on executions in December of 2007 is a symbolic event which clearly shows this worldwide trend.
In Japan, on the other hand, both death sentences and executions are rapidly increasing in recent years. In response to these circumstances, the United Nations’ Committee against Torture (May 2007) and the Human Rights Council (June 2008) has shown great concern and has advised that along with guaranteeing the rights of those facing the death penalty, a moratorium be placed on executions.
Also, on October 15 and 16 2008, the fifth periodic review of the status of human rights in Japan was conducted by the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee. During the session, Committee members expressed their serious concerns about lack of a mandatory appeal system for capital cases. One of the two executed inmates was originally sentenced to life imprisonment at the first instance court, but the High Court overturned the decision and sentenced him to death. He withdrew his appeal to the Supreme Court and the sentence became final. Moreover, the government of Japan cited the public’s support for the death penalty and its operation, which triggered severe criticism by the committee members that the death penalty is a matter of human rights which should not be decided by public opinion
Today, concluding observations and recommendations are to be adopted by the Human Rights Committee. However, the government dares to execute the death penalty on the very day of the scheduled adoption. This means that the government declares to the rest of the world that it closes its ears to requests from the international community and does not respect the human rights treaties ratified by Japan. It is inevitable that more severe recommendations will be adopted by the Committee and Japan will face more criticism from the international community about the death penalty system. Furthermore, we are seriously concerned that Japan might lose its international reputation in terms of human rights issues.
We hereby strongly request again that the government of Japan conduct a thorough review of the death penalty system, including the consideration of whether to retain or abolish it, and introduce a moratorium on executions for a certain period of time until the necessary reforms are made.