Two more executions bring the total number to eight this year

Press release

A statement by the Center for Prisoners’ Rights, FIDH member organisation in Japan

On December 12th, Japan’s Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki gave the order to execute Ryoji Kagayama, 63, at Osaka Detention Center and Mitsuo Fujishima, age 55, at Tokyo Detention Center.

This is the fourth execution under the government led by Liberal Democratic Party which came back to the power last December, and today’s executions have brought the total number of executions in 2013 to eight, while the number of executions in 2012 was seven.

The executions were carried out following the Human Rights Week, which the government of Japan had set prior to December 10th, International Human Rights Day, which clearly displays the government’s lack of sensitivity toward human rights.

Ryoji Kagayama was executed only sixteen months after his sentence had been confirmed by the Supreme Court. In general, death row prisoners in Japan have strictly limited contacts with outside world, and therefore even if a death row prisoner has an intention to file a request for retrial, it is extremely difficult to get a lawyer who works on the case. Today’s executions are seriously problematic not only because of a lack of prior announcement of executions to prisoners themselves, but also due to failure to secure their rights to defense.

A short period of time between the occurrence of the crime and the death sentence at the first instance court, which means failure to respect defendant’s procedural rights and a rough trial, is another problem. Kagayama received a death sentence twelve months after the incident, and Fujishima’s sentence came sixteen months after he had committed the crime. The fact that Fujichima had filed a request for retrial on at least five occasions also strongly suggests that the trial was flawed.

As a universal trend toward abolition is overwhelming, Japan, which retains the death penalty and continues to carry out executions regularly, is now a peculiar country and becoming more and more isolated from the international community. In March 2013, at the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the government of Japan rejected all of the recommendations calling for abolition of the death penalty or introduction of moratorium on executions. Moreover, in May 2013, the UN Committee against Torture reviewed the second periodic report submitted by the government of Japan and the Committee urged the government to reform treatment of prisoners on death row and ‘to ensure that the death row inmates are afforded all the legal safeguards and protections’ provided by the ICCPR as well as to consider ‘the possibility of abolishing the death penalty’, as well as to consider the possibility of abolishing the death penalty.

Recently the UN Human Rights Committee has adopted a list of Issues in relation to the sixth periodic report of Japan. The sixth periodic review of Japan, which is scheduled in July 2014, will be conducted based on the list which raised seventeen issues with regard to the death penalty, asking the government for the related information. It is inevitable for the government to receive severer recommendations from the Committee as a result of the review.

Center for Prisoners’ Rights condemns today’s executions and will continue its struggle to achieve a moratorium on executions and ultimate abolition of the death penalty.

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