JAPAN: Secret execution as authorities ignore calls for reform

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29 Aug 2014
[International Secretariat]
Region: JAPAN
Topic: Abolition of the Death Penalty

The executions of two men in Japan on 29th August flies in the face of growing calls in the country to halt the use of capital punishment, said Amnesty International.

Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59 were hanged in the early hours of 29th August morning. Both convicted of murder. Kobayashi was detained in Sendai detention centre, and Takamizawa was in Tokyo detention centre

“It is chilling that the Japanese authorities continue to send people to the gallows despite serious questions over the use of the death penalty in the country.” said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

A lack of adequate legal safeguards for people facing the death penalty in Japan has been widely criticized.  This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel from the time of arrest, a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases and detention in prolonged solitary confinement.

Several prisoners suffering from mental illness are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.

“This state-sanctioned killing is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment. The government should halt all future executions as a first step towards abolition.”

The execution– the second in 2014 –is the 11th since Prime Minister Abe’s government took office in December 2012. A total of 125 people remain on death row in Japan.

“Human rights are being side-lined under Prime Minister Abe’s government. The past two years has been marked by a series of regressive steps, including the refusal to act on UN bodies’ calls to address human rights violations,” said Shoji.

Serious flaws over the use of the death penalty in Japan were underlined in March, when a court ordered the temporary release of Hakamada Iwao, who spent more than four decades on death row after an unfair trial.

Prosecutors have appealed the decision to grant Hakamada a retrial, despite the court stating that the police were likely to have fabricated evidence.

Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours’ notice, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

29 August 2014

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