Open letter on the abolition of the death penalty in Japan

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(Japanese version attached below)

Open letter to:

Mr. Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan
Shugiin Giin Kaikan No.1 #821
2-2-1, Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Mr. Hideo Hiraoka
Minister of Justice of Japan
Shugiin Giin Kaikan No.2 #205
2-1-2, Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Paris, 3 January 2012

Re: Open letter on the abolition of the death penalty in Japan

Dear Prime Minister Noda,
Dear Minister of Justice Hiraoka,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) are honoured to write to you at this critical juncture of death penalty developments in Japan. Your country has not carried out any execution since the last executions in Japan were carried out on 28 July 2010, when Mr. Ogata Hidenori and Mr. Shinozawa Kazuo were hanged at the Tokyo detention centre. FIDH and WCADP welcome such a positive development; 2011 has been the first year without any execution in Japan since 1993. Especially we applaud the deliberated initiative taken by Minister Hiraoka, despite various difficulties he faced in domestic circumstances.

FIDH and WCADP thus encourage your government to sustain its efforts and call on your authority not to approve any execution order in the future and to initiate careful studies and to engage in public and parliamentary debates of the use of capital punishment in the country. Japan would benefit from the establishment, as soon as possible, of 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.

More than two thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific, 17 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, nine are abolitionists in practice and one – Fiji – uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes. This means that less than half of the countries in the region still use this ultimate and irreversible punishment.

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 called for its abolition.

As a leading democracy in Asia and a key member of the international community, an official commitment by Japan towards the abolition of the death penalty will not only be consistent with the international trend but also send a powerful signal all over the world that the right to life must be respected and protected.

We thank you for your attention and future actions regarding this important matter.

Sincerely yours,

Souhayr Belhassen
FIDH president

Florence Bellivier
WCADP president

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