Japan executes an elderly man and a woman, despite international calls for abolition

Press release
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(Paris, Tokyo) FIDH and its member organisation in Japan, Center for Prisoners’ Rights, strongly condemn the execution of two prisoners in Japan that took place last week. On Friday 25 March, Japan’s Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki authorised the execution of Mr. Yasutoshi Kamata and Ms. Junko Yoshida. These are the first executions to take place in Japan in 2016, adding to the 14 other executions since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was re-elected in 2012.

Mr. Kamata’s death sentence for murder charges was confirmed in 2005, and he was 75 years old when he was executed last week. In response to a questionnaire sent to him by a human rights group in 2015, he stated that he had “become senile and did not understand anything complicated.” The execution of Mr. Kamata is particularly problematic considering the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommended in 2008 that Japan adopt “a more humane approach with regard to the treatment of death row inmates and the execution of persons at an advanced age or with mental disabilities.” [1] Since the UN handed down this recommendation, Japan has executed several elderly and mentally disabled individuals.

Ms. Yoshida, sentenced to death in 2010 for murder, had her request for a retrial rejected last year. It is suspected that the Ministry of Justice expedited her execution in so that she could not file another petition for retrial. Following Ms. Yoshida and Mr. Kamata’s executions, there remain 124 people sentenced to death in Japan.

In 2020, Japan will host the United Nations (UN) Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Considering the growing global trend towards abolition and the multiple decisions by UN human rights bodies confirming that the use of the death penalty entails serious human rights violations, the government of Japan should abolish the death penalty before the 2020 Congress, in order to bring its laws and criminal justice system in line with international human rights standards.

Our organisations strongly condemn Japan’s continued use of the death penalty, and call on the government of Japan to immediately suspend all executions with a view to ultimately abolishing the death penalty.

For further information in the death penalty in Japan, See FIDH “The death penalty in Japan : Denial of the Right to Life and other human rights violation” (2014), and "The law of silence, going against the international trend" (2008).
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