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Statement on the Chinese Government's Notice of Execution of a Japanese Citizen


The Chinese government reportedly gave notice to the Japanese government by March 30 that it would shortly execute a Japanese man who was convicted of attempting to smuggle narcotics and was sentenced to death as a final and conclusive judgment.


However, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereinafter referred to as the “Covenant”) which Japan has ratified and China has signed provides in Paragraph 2, Article 6 that in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The UN Human Rights Committee (hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”) mentioned in its general comment 6 [16] that the expression "most serious crimes" must be read restrictively to mean that the death penalty should be a quite exceptional measure. The “most serious crimes” is limited to crimes that at least result in the loss of life. In this regard, the Committee clearly expressed its opinion in the concluding observations to the Report of Iran in 1993 that the Committee considered the imposition of the death penalty for crimes of an economic nature or for crimes that did not result in loss of life, as being contrary to the Covenant. In addition, the Committee expressed its concerns in the concluding observation to the Report of Thailand in 2005 that the death penalty was not restricted to the “most serious crimes” within the meaning of Paragraph 2, Article 6, when it was applied to drug trafficking.


The Committee and the UN Human Rights Council, of which Japan is currently a member, are requesting to reduce the scope of crimes punishable by death with a view to completely abolishing the death penalty. If a similar situation occurs for a European citizen, we believe that his/her government would actively take every measure to avoid the execution of its citizen. Though Japan is maintaining the death penalty system, the maximum punishment for a similar crime is life imprisonment and the death penalty is not applicable (Paragraph 2, Article 41 of the Stimulants Control Act). We should not just sit and do nothing when a Japanese citizen who has been convicted of a crime which is not punishable by death in our country is going to lose his life by the death penalty which is definitely against international human rights standards.


It was reported that the Prime Minister and the Chief Cabinet Secretary expressed their concerns over the planned execution. However, in order to protect the right to life guaranteed for the Japanese people by Article 6 of the Covenant, we urge the Japanese government to clearly request the Chinese government not to execute this Japanese man.


April 2, 2010
Kenji Utsunomiya
Japan Federation of Bar Associations


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