JAPAN: Authorities deceiving the public by resuming executions

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25 Jun 2015
[International Secretariat]
Region: JAPAN
Topic: Abolition of the Death Penalty

The Japanese authorities are attempting to avoid public scrutiny by carrying out its first execution this year while the country’s attention is focused elsewhere, Amnesty International said on Thursday. 

Tsukasa Kanda, 44, was hanged in the early hours of Thursday morning at Nagoya detention centre. He was convicted in 2009 of robbery and homicide.

The execution took place when the national political and media attention is on the government’s controversial plans to extend Japan’s military role.

“With the country looking the other way, Japan’s authorities decided it was politically convenient to resume executions. To take a man’s life in this way is the politics of the gutter,” said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

“The government is avoiding a full and frank debate on the use of the death penalty because the arguments it puts forward do not stand up to scrutiny.”

The Japanese government continues to argue the death penalty acts as a “general deterrence”, yet at the same time has acknowledged there is a lack of “scientific” evidence to substantiate this claim.

There is simply no credible evidence that the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than a prison sentence. This fact has been confirmed in multiple studies carried out by the UN and in many regions around the world.

“The Japanese government are deceiving the public with this latest execution. State-sanctioned killing is not a solution to tackling crime, it is the ultimate violation of human rights,” said Hiroka Shoji.

Japan was one of only 22 states to carry out executions in 2014, compared to 41 countries 20 years ago. 140 states have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Japan and the USA remain the only members of the G8 that carry out executions, yet even in the USA there are signs that the use of the death penalty in the country is declining.


“Japan is isolated and out of step with the vast majority of countries that have abandoned this ultimate, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” said Hiroka Shoji.

“The government has a choice between continuing to take Japan down a regressive path and  ending executions and prove it values human rights.”

The execution is the 12th to be carried out under the current government which took office in 2012. Three people were three executed in 2014 and 129 people currently languish on death row in the country.

Executions 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.

The lack of adequate legal safeguards for death row inmates in Japan has been widely criticized by UN experts. This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel and a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases. Several prisoners with mental and intellectual disabilities are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.

Several death row prisoners have stated that they had “confessed” to the crime following torture or other ill-treatment during prolonged periods of interrogation, without a lawyer, while in police custody. In some cases, these “confessions” were admitted as evidence at trial and form the basis of their conviction.

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.

25 June 2015

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