Letter to Prime Minister Abe on the ongoing executions

Open Letter

Mr. Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, Japan 100-8968
Fax: +81-3-3592-0179

7 January 2019

RE: Ongoing executions in Japan

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and its member organization Center for Prisoners’ Rights (CPR) are writing to you to raise their concerns over the worrying trend of ongoing executions in Japan. In this regard, we urge you to immediately stop all executions and declare an official moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

On 27 December 2018, Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita announced the execution, by hanging, of two convicted murderers, Keizo Okamoto, 60, and Hiroya Suemori, 67, at the Osaka Detention Center. Mr. Okamoto’s execution is particularly troubling because it is our understanding that he had filed a request for retrial, which was still pending in court at the time of his execution. The execution of individuals who are still seeking a retrial, is a violation to the United Nations Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty, which state that capital punishment should not be carried out pending “any appeal or other recourse procedure or other proceeding relating to pardon or commutation of the sentence.”

These executions show the Japanese government’s continued failure to take steps towards the implementation of the recommendations related to the abolition of the death penalty, which have been repeatedly made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

The December executions follow two waves of executions in July 2018, which brought the total number of death row inmates hanged in 2018 to 15 - the highest number of executions since 2009. Since you took office in 2012, there has been a total of 36 executions in Japan.

This trend is against the global movement towards abolition of the death penalty, which was reaffirmed on 17 December 2018, when a record-high number of 121 countries voted in favor of the latest United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty. We regret that Japan was one of the 35 countries that voted against the resolution.

FIDH and CPR reiterate their calls on the Japanese government to immediately stop all executions and officially reinstate the official moratorium that was lifted in March 1993. Japan, as member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, should make concrete progress towards the total abolition of capital punishment.

Our organizations would welcome having an opportunity to engage with you on this topic. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Dimitris Christopoulos
President, FIDH

Maiko Tagusari
Secretary-General, CPR

Read more