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Japan: By executing three, the government sends a very negative signal to the abolitionist movement in Asia

Paris, 29 March 2012. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) express their outrage at the hanging of three inmates this morning in prisons in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. These executions are the first since July 2010 and occurred less than three months after the new Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa took office. The year 2011 had been the first without any execution since 1993.

At a press conference held in Tokyo at 10am (local time), Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa declared that 132 people remain on the death row in Japan, which nearly corresponds to the highest level since World War II. At the time of the two executions in July 2010, there were only 107 death row convicts. 10 death sentences were handed down in 2011.

Today’s executions contradict recent efforts by the Japanese government not to approve any execution order. “The Justice Minister’s statement that he carried out his duty as stipulated by law is not only neglecting the government’s earlier promises to look seriously at its use of the death penalty; it also clearly violates the right to life, which Japan is ought to respect as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH president.

Japan is one of the 58 countries that retain the capital punishment. More than 140 countries, including all EU members, have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Of the G8 nations, only Japan and the United States still use capital punishment, while Russia has not executed anyone since 1996. Even in the US, 16 States and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty, while the Governor of Oregon has recently declared he would not allow any execution during his term. On 9 September 2011, the Republic of Korea marked the 5000th day without execution. In January 2010, the Mongolian president has announced a moratorium of the death penalty and on 5 January 2012, the Mongolian parliament passed a bill to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to abolish the death penalty.

“Given the current context of an increase in executions in Asia, including in countries like Iran and China, Japan needed to play a leading role in showing the way towards abolition. The issue of the death penalty has been much debated at the national level in many countries in the region and the executions in Japan may seriously affect such positive trends”, said Florence Bellivier, WCADP president.

FIDH and WCADP call on the Japanese government to refrain from approving any executing order and establish, as soon as possible, an independent, broad-based panel of experts, including civil society representatives, to study and make recommendations to the government on the abolition of the death penalty.



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