Statement on the Executions
Today, two death row inmates were executed in the Tokyo Detention Center. This is the first time that executions have been conducted in Japan since Ms. Keiko Chiba assumed the office of Minister of Justice in September 2009.
Immediately after her assumption of the current post, Justice Minister Chiba stated that she would carefully consider the execution of death penalties as it was a matter involving human lives. However, she has neither established any forums for active debate on the issue of capital punishment nor promoted information disclosure concerning this subject. The JFBA deeply deplores her ordering of today’s executions in the absence of having taken such proposed actions.
In October 2008, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that, regardless of opinion polls, the Japanese government should favorably consider abolishing the death penalty and inform the public, as necessary, about the desirability of such abolition. In addition, the committee pointed out numerous problems, including insufficient procedural guarantees (i.e., a lack of a mandatory appeal system in death penalty cases) and the inhumane treatment of death row inmates, and requested their improvement.
Various problems surrounding the death penalty system in Japan are still emerging. In October 2009, a request was filed for retrial of the IIzuka case in which the defendant had already been executed, claiming that the DNA test results which had been heavily relied on as evidence leading to the death sentence were erroneous. In addition, the Third Petty Bench of the Supreme Court quashed another death penalty sentence given by a High Court and remanded the case back to the High Court for further consideration.
Now is the time to suspend executions and broadly discuss all elements of the death penalty system and the problems surrounding it.
Justice Minister Chiba stated in today’s news conference that she had witnessed the executions. She also indicated her willingness to make an execution room open to the public and launch a study meeting within the Ministry of Justice to consider how the death penalty system should look in the future, including the issue of whether it should be retained or abolished. The JFBA looks forward to this study meeting as being a first step toward nation-wide debates at truly open forums.
On this occasion, the JFBA hereby reiterates its strong request that the Japanese government introduce a moratorium on executions for a certain period of time until a thorough review of the death penalty system has taken place, including consideration of the retention or abolition of the system and until all necessary reforms have been put in place.
July 28, 2010
Japan Federation of Bar Associations