Open Letter: Concern about the recent executions

Press release

The Honourable Ms. Chiba Keiko
Minister of Justice
1-1-1 Kasumigaseki,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8977

Paris-Tokyo, 29 July 2010

Subject: Concern about the recent executions

Your Excellency,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Center for Prisoners’ Rights (CPR) strongly condemn the execution by hanging of two death row inmates, Mr Shinozawa Kazuo and Mr Ogata Hidenori in Tokyo, on 28 July 2010. These executions are the first under the new administration of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and were conducted exactly one year after the last executions. Since July 2009, 12 more people have been sentenced to death and four have died of illness. After the latest executions, 107 persons remain on death row in Japan.

Our organisations are deeply disappointed that you, as a former member of the Japanese Parliamentary League against the Death Penalty and a lawyer with strong human rights credentials, decided to sign the orders for execution.

No justice system in the world is perfect and none is immune to wrongful convictions of the innocent. The death penalty not only could result in irreversible tragedies but also has failed to be an effective deterrent of crimes, as its proponents would argue in spite of ample evidence and experience in many countries to the contrary. The lack of adequate protection of the rights of the accused in the Japanese criminal procedures, identified in the FIDH-CPR fact-finding mission report “The law of silence, going against the international trend”, only adds to the risk of wrongful convictions and executions.

We take note of your announcement to set up a ministry study group to review the use of the death penalty and also to allow the media limited access to the execution chambers. However, these steps are only meaningful if they lead to real and positive change in the application of the death penalty.

FIDH and CPR call upon the Government of Japan to exercise political and moral leadership in informing the public of the risks of capital punishment and the desirability of its abolition, including through broad and inclusive consultation with Japanese citizens, legal professionals and civil society organisations. We further urge the Government of Japan and members of the National Diet to adopt, as soon as possible, a moratorium on the death penalty, as a first step towards abolition.

As a State Party to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and a member of the Human Rights Council, Japan must fully respect the right to life. It is our sincere hope that you will take into consideration our concerns and recommendations.

Sincerely yours,

Souhayr Belhassen Maiko Tagusari
FIDH President CPR Secretary-General

Copied to:
The Honourable Mr Yokomichi Takahiro, President of the House of Representatives, National Diet of Japan
The Honourable Mr Eda Satsuki, President of the House of Councillors, National Diet of Japan
The Honourable Mr Shizuka Kamei, Chairperson of the Japan Parliamentary League against the Death Penalty, Member of the House of Representatives, and President of the New People’s Party
The Honourable Mr. Makoto Taki, Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, House of Representatives
The Honourable Ms. Akira Matsu, Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, House of Counselors

Read more