Press government on detention conditions and death penalty, UN committee told

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(Paris, Tokyo) A United Nations (UN) body should raise key issues related to detention conditions and the death penalty as part of its review of Japan’s human rights record, FIDH and its member organization Center for Prisoners’ Rights (CPR) said today.

“The fact that Japan retains the death penalty and its detention conditions fail to meet international standards is in stark contrast to its image of a modern and developed democratic nation. Capital punishment and detention conditions must be front and center at the review of Japan’s record with regard to civil and political rights.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

On 24 July 2017, FIDH and CPR jointly submitted information to the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) for the adoption of the “List of Issues Prior to Reporting” as part of the review of Japan under the Simplified Reporting Procedure. The CCPR monitors state parties’ compliance with their legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In its joint submission, FIDH and CPR expressed a number of concerns related to conditions of detention, such as the increasing number of prisoners who are being held in prolonged solitary confinement (i.e. for more than 10 years) - from 21 in 2012 to 32 in 2016. In addition, inmates subjected to life imprisonment continue to face slim chances of being released on parole. From 2013 to 2015, only 17 prisoners serving life sentences were released on parole. Over the same period of time, 36 prisoners serving life sentences died in prison - more than double the number of those who were released on parole.

Healthcare in prisons remains inadequate and the number of medical staff in prisons remains insufficient, with one in five of the allocated staffing levels unfilled. Pre-trial prisoners often face difficulties in receiving proper medical treatment as a result of the daiyo kangoku (substitute prison) system, which allows the use of police cells as a substitute for detention facilities under the Ministry of Justice. When prisoners are transferred from police stations to detention centers, they are required to throw away all the medicine prescribed for them during their stay at police facilities. This prevents prisoners from taking necessary medicine for several days following their transfer.

With regard to the death penalty, FIDH and CPR regret that the Japanese government has made no progress towards reducing the number of capital crimes (the death penalty remains prescribed for 19 offenses) and introducing a mandatory judicial review by appellate courts for death penalty sentences. Reforms in these two areas have been made more urgent since the introduction of the Lay Judge System, which has resulted in a higher rate of convictions and death sentences in trials involving capital offenses than under the previous judicial structure.

FIDH and CPR also remain concerned over the Japanese authorities’ ongoing failure to provide reasonable advance notice of the scheduled date and time of the execution. FIDH and CPR reiterate their call on the government to immediately establish a moratorium on all executions and take the necessary steps to publicly review the current method of execution.

“The UN has repeatedly censored Japan over its sub-standard detention conditions and its use of capital punishment. The Japanese government has a unique opportunity to show that it takes its international human rights obligations seriously by implementing previous recommendation ahead of the UN review.”

Maiko Tagusari, CPR Director
Press contacts
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel.: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
CPR: Mr. Teppei Ono (English, Japanese) - Tel.: +818010025453 (Tokyo)
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