"The law of silence, going against the international trend"

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Publication of an international fact-finding mission Report

On the occasion of the world day against the death penalty, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) publishes a report on death penalty in Japan, entitled "The death penalty in Japan: the law of silence, going against the international trend".

This report is the outcome of a fact-finding mission conducted by FIDH in July 2008, in order to assess the measures taken by the Japanese government to implement the recommendations made by a previous investigation, conducted in 2003.

The conclusions of the report are appalling. According to Florence Bellivier, General Secretary of FIDH "Japan continues to condemn criminals to death, and incarcerate them up for decades, in prisons where secrecy and isolation are commonplace, in total disregard of the world opinion". In addition, the rhythm of the executions has accelerated over the recent years. "2008 has been a record year, with more executions this year than in any other of the last fifteen years. We are witnessing a real step backwards" added Dan Van Raemdonck, Vice-President of FIDH. Thirteen persons have been executed since the beginning of the year, and 102 are currently on death row. There has not been a single retrial of a death penalty case since 1986, and no convicted prisoner has been pardoned since 1975.

"We are also worried about the reforms concerning the criminal procedure, which will take effect before the end of the year. Those reforms may strengthen the inequality between the prosecution and the defense, which would lead to a rise of the number of death sentences" declared Jia-Zhen Wu, board member of the Taiwanese Association for Human Rights, who participated in FIDH mission.

FIDH calls the Japanese government and lawmakers to adopt, as soon as possible, a moratorium on the death penalty, as a first step towards abolition. In the meantime, FIDH requests Japan, in particular, to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death, reform the custody system, and guarantee a greater equality between the prosecution and the defence.

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