The government has so far failed to implement UN recommendations on death penalty

Press release

The Japanese Government has so far failed to implement UN recommendations on the death penalty, as the country is about to be reviewed for a sixth time by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. [1]

The 109th session of the Human Rights Committee is being held from 14 October to 1 November 2013 in Geneva. On 31 October, the committee will adopt a list of issues for the sixth periodic review of Japan, which will precede the actual review of Japan in July 2014.

“We are concerned at Japan’s continued ignorance of recommendations by UN experts on the death penalty” , said the Center for Prisoners’ Rights Japan (CPR), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in a joint statement.

“The execution of Tokuhisa Kumagai, on 12 September, took place right after the International Olympic Committee selected Tokyo as the host city for 2020 Olympic Games. This further displays the extent to which the government remains impervious to international pressure on the matter” , both organizations added.

Mr Kumagai, 73, was the sixth death row inmate executed by the Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, since his appointment in December 2012. He was first sentenced to life imprisonment before the High Court turned it into the death sentence, which was later confirmed by the Supreme Court. Despite his advanced age and the fact that he was convicted of a single (not multiple) murder, the Japanese government did not take into account the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommendations in 2008 for a more humane approach in the case of elderly persons and the strict limitation of the death penalty to the most serious crimes.

In its submission for the pre-session, [2] CPR addressed the following areas of concern:

  • The continued application of the death penalty in Japan;
  • The strict limitation of the rights of death row inmates;
  • The execution of persons with mental disability; and
  • Poor prison conditions in Japanese detention centers including medical treatment, life imprisonment and the system of parole, solitary confinement, disciplinary measures and grievance mechanisms.
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