Statement Strongly Protesting Today’s Execution and Calling for an Immediate Moratorium on All Executions and to Enact Legislation Immediately to Abolish the Death Penalty
Today (July 26, 2022), a death row inmate was executed at the Tokyo Detention Center. After three death row prisoners were executed on December 21, 2021, today’s execution was carried out as the 4th case in only about a half year since the formation of the Kishida Cabinet and the appointment of Yoshihisa Furukawa as the Minister of Justice.
A life taken by crime can never be brought back, and such crimes should never be tolerated. It is fully understandable for bereaved family members, who lost their loved ones to crime, to seek severe punishment against the offender. Society as a whole is under a moral obligation to render sufficient support to victims of crime and their family members who have had to endure this most painful experience.
Nevertheless, the death penalty is the punishment that allows the state to deprive people of the right to life, which is at the core of fundamental human rights. The death penalty is the harshest penalty and the only such penalty still left in modern penal systems that have been reformed from corporal punishment to imprisonment under the modern ideology of human rights. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) adopted its “Declaration Calling for Reform of the Penal System Including Abolition of the Death Penalty” during the 59th JFBA Convention on the Protection of Human Rights in 2016, and has called on the Japanese government to abolish the death penalty and reform the penal system. From an international perspective, many countries have already abolished their death penalties and the global tide of abolishing the death penalty is gaining more momentum, as exemplified by the U.S. Attorney General’s issuing of a memorandum imposing a moratorium on scheduling federal executions. Under these circumstances, it is quite regrettable that the death row prisoner was executed today. Moreover, given that a retrial had been sought for the executed inmate, the execution conducted today deserves unreserved condemnation.
The penal system should serve not only for the retribution for crimes, but also for the rehabilitation of offenders, which will consequently lead to the achievement of increased safety throughout society as a whole. In June, the criminal law was amended to integrate imprisonment with work and imprisonment without work into a new custodial sentence, and this amendment represents a shift in the punishment system from “imposing a penalty” to “focusing on rehabilitation and education.” However, under the criminal law, the death penalty is a penalizing system that does not intend to rehabilitate offenders and hence, it is inconsistent with the philosophy of imprisonment.
For many years, the reasoning underpinning the Ministry of Justice’s justification for retaining the death penalty has been the outcome of opinion polls showing the majority of the public being in favor of the death penalty. However, the findings from opinion polls have also indicated a likelihood that, depending on the protocol of an alternative punishment, the abolition of the death penalty may be accepted. In addition, the UN Human Rights Committee and other UN human rights bodies have repeatedly advised the Japanese government to favorably consider abolishing the death penalty “regardless of opinion polls.” Thus, justifying the retention of the death penalty on the grounds of the results of opinion polls results is no longer warranted.
Through this statement, the JFBA hereby strongly protests the execution carried out today, and echoes its call to enact legislation immediately to abolish the death penalty and place a moratorium on all executions until the death penalty is abolished.
July 26, 2022
Japan Federation of Bar Associations