Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Japan: New minister will approve hangings

Japan has a new justice minister and -- like his predecessor -- he has used his first interview in office to confirm he will approve further executions.

Kunio Hatoyama was appointed justice minister on 27 August, and The Japan Times reported today that his first news conference focused on the death penalty and alleged crime by foreigners.

Hatoyama, described by The Japan Times as "a conservative hawk who makes frequent visits to Yasukuni Shrine", is a political veteran from a prominent political family.

"The death penalty embodies preventive functions against crimes. I disagree with abolishing the system," he said.

He said the death row population, reported recently as either 103 or 104 people, was still "a large number".

Death row numbers were reduced on 23 August, when three men were hanged in Tokyo and Nagoya.

The hangings were approved by former justice minister Jinen Nagase, who said in his first press conference on 26 September last year that finalised death sentences should be carried out.

"It's about ending a person's life, so it must be given careful consideration," Nagase said, according to The Japan Times. "But rulings by the courts must not be ignored."

New minister Hatoyama used almost identical words last Friday: "One must be extra careful in approving death penalties because it is about ending human life," he said.

The Japan Times said he added that failure to authorise capital punishment runs against the nature of the legal system. "Executions should be carried out aptly" under the Constitution, he said.

Jinen Nagase approved a record ten hangings in his eleven months in office.

In contrast, the previous justice minister was Seiken Sugiura, a Buddhist who did not sign any execution orders in his eleven months in office.

Related stories:
Japan executed mentally ill man -- 26 August, 2007
Japan: Lawyers condemn three more executions --24 August, 2007
Urgent move to stop executions in Japan -- 8 August, 2007
Japan hangs three 'to keep numbers down' -- 29 April, 2007
Japan: Christmas hangings draw protest -- 3 January, 2007
Executions may resume in Japan -- 21 December, 2006
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006
Japan: Lonely wait for the noose -- 5 April 2006
Japan's death row hell -- 3 March 2006

Monday, 3 September 2007

Sign the global petition against executions

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty has launched a global petition as part of the campaign for an international moratorium on executions.

The petition calls on all governments to "work for a world free of executions" and to vote in favour of a proposed resolution to be presented to the UN General Assembly later this year.

The resolution will call for a suspension of executions as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

According to the World Coalition's website, the proposed moratorium "would save lives and give the population of retentionist states an opportunity to see for themselves that a pause in death sentences does not lead to higher crime rates".

"A resolution by the UN highest political body would be an important international milestone in the campaign to abolish the death penalty worldwide and would carry considerable moral weight."

The petition will build on the five million signatures collected on the 'Moratorium 2000' petition coordinated by the Community of Sant'Egidio and Amnesty International.

The World Coalition is encouraging activists and organisations to:

  • Sign the petition for a moratorium on executions

  • Lobby their governments to support the UN General Assembly resolution for a global moratorium

  • Organise events for the World Day against the Death Penalty on 10 October, 2007 - and inform the World Coalition about their plans.
This year's World Day against the Death Penalty, 10 October, 2007, will promote the proposed UN resolution.

The World Coalition has produced a poster, a public opinion leaflet, a government lobbying flyer, a facts and figures document and a website banner to support the campaign.

Text of the petition:

An appeal for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty

We, the undersigned,

In recognition of the five million people who signed the ‘Moratorium 2000’ petition launched by the Community of Sant’Egidio and Amnesty International,

Renew the call for a worldwide moratorium on executions and an end to capital punishment in the belief that the death penalty:

- Violates the universally affirmed right to life ;

- Constitutes the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment ;

- Constantly risks the irreversible error of the execution of an innocent person ;

- Provides no added value to the deterrence of crime ;

- Brutalises those societies that employ state sanctioned judicial killing.

We welcome the strong progress already made towards a global end to capital punishment and acknowledge that 130 nations have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

We invite all governments to work for a world free of executions as a contribution to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. We call upon the member states of the UN General Assembly to overwhelmingly vote in favour of an international moratorium on executions.