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Comment on Juvenile Sentenced to Death by Saiban-in Trial


Today, a nineteen-year-old juvenile charged with murder, etc. was sentenced to death in a saiban-in (lay judge) trial held in the Sendai District Court. This is the first juvenile saiban-in trial in which the death penalty has been handed down.


In response to today’s decision, as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) already urged when a saiban-in trial in the Yokohama District Court recently handed down a death sentence, it reiterates its requests to review the decision-making method of the death penalty and to further deepen nation-wide debates on the issues surrounding the death penalty system including consideration of whether to retain or abolish the system.


Especially, the death penalty for juveniles should be reviewed and discussed thoroughly and more in depth.


The Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits the death penalty for juveniles under eighteen years of age. In addition, the Juvenile Act avoids imposing a death sentence on a juvenile who was under age 18 at the time he or she committed the crime. Article 51 provides that "a life sentence shall be given to a juvenile criminal who was under age 18 at the time the crime was committed when their crime would otherwise deserve the death penalty under the Penal Code."As juveniles under the age of 18 who have committed serious crimes often suffer from multiple handicaps due to their growth environments and are mentally immature, the Juvenile Act aims to provide them with opportunities for growth and rehabilitation and have them face the serious consequences caused by their actions.


The juvenile in this case was already age 18, but we believe that the said purpose of the Juvenile Act should be respected in determining a sentence for this case as well.


In order for a thorough discussion on this issue, the JFBA urges the government to disclose pertinent information to citizens who would serve as saiban-in in the future, including information about the actual treatment of death row inmates and execution methods, as well as the backgrounds and causes behind serious juvenile crimes and the current situation of rehabilitation and its effect.


November 25, 2010
Japan Federation of Bar Associations

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