Letter to the Minister of Justice on the imminent executions of death row inmates

19/07/2018
Open Letter
en ja

Ms. Yoko Kamikawa
Minister of Justice
1-1-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, Japan 100-8799
Fax: +81 3 3592 7008 / +81 3 3592 7393

Paris, 19 July 2018

RE: Imminent executions of death row inmates

Dear Minister Kamikawa,

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and its member organization Center for Prisoners’ Rights (CPR) write to urge you to stop all executions, including those of Satoru Hashimoto, Kenichi Hirose, Toru Toyoda, Yasuo Koike, Masato Yokoyama, and Kazuaki Miyamae, six death row inmates and former members of the Aum Shinrikyo sect.

It is our understanding that four of them still have appeals pending in the court. The execution of individuals who are still seeking a retrial is a violation to the UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty, which states 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.”

We also wish to express our disappointment at the executions of death row inmates and former members of the Aum Shinrikyo sect Chizuo Matsumoto, Masami Tsuchiya, Seiichi Endo, Yoshihiro Inoue, Tomomitsu Niimi, Tomomasa Nakagawa, and Kiyohide Hayakawa in detention centers in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka on 6 July 2018. Six of the seven executed inmates were seeking a retrial and one of the seven might have suffered from mental illness.

FIDH, a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), and CPR reiterate their strong opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances.

We note that the recent executions and every future execution represent a failure to implement recommendations that the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) has repeatedly made to Japan with regard to the use of the death penalty.

On 30 October 2008, in its Concluding Observations on Japan’s fifth periodic report, the CCPR recommended the Japanese government adopt “a more humane approach” with regard to the execution of persons with mental disabilities and ensure the suspensive effect of requests for retrial or pardon in cases of executions. [1] On 20 August 2014, in its Concluding Observations on Japan’s sixth periodic report, the CCPR recommended the Japanese government establish a “mandatory and effective system of review” in capital cases and implement an independent mechanism to examine death row inmates’ mental health. [2]

In addition, Japan, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has a legal obligation to comply with Article 6(2) of the covenant, which states that the death penalty “can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.”

Japan, as member of the UN Human Rights Council, has a duty to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. [3] In the commitments and pledges made ahead of Japan’s election as council member in 2011, the Japanese government also promised to follow up on the recommendations made by the CCPR. [4]

Regrettably, the Japanese government has not taken any steps to implement the recommendations related to the death penalty and live up to its international commitments. Instead, the government has chosen to continue to carry out executions. This move is likely to have a negative impact on the outcome of the review of Japan’s seventh periodic report under the ICCPR, which is currently being undertaken by the CCPR.

FIDH and CPR urge the government of Japan to:

1. Immediately halt all executions and announce an official moratorium on capital punishment.
2. Establish an independent mechanism to review the mental health of death row inmates.
3. Establish a mandatory and effective system of review in capital cases, with requests for retrial or pardon having a suspensive effect, and guarantee the strict confidentiality of all meetings between death row inmates and their lawyers concerning requests for retrial.
4. Implement all the recommendations related to the use of the death penalty made by the UN Human Rights Committee in its Concluding Observations on Japan’s fifth and sixth periodic reports.
5. Sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR-OP2), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
6. Vote in favor of a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in December 2018.

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

Sincerely,

Dimitris Christopoulos
President, FIDH

Maiko Tagusari
Secretary-General, CPR

CC:
Mr. Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister
1-6-1 Nagata-cho Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, Japan 100-8968
Fax: +81335813883

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