Monday, 4 February 2008

Japan: Sixteen hanged in thirteen months

Japan hanged three men on Friday (1 February), bringing to 16 the number of people executed in the last 13 months.

Human rights organisations, members of parliament and lawyers condemned the execution of Masahiko Matsubara, 63, Takashi Mochida, 65, and Keishi Nago, 37. They were hanged in Osaka, Tokyo and Fukuoka.

For only the second time, the justice ministry confirmed the mens' names in a public statement.

Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama has approved a total of six hangings since he took office in August 2007. Three men, including a 75 year-old man, were hanged on 7 December after he signed their execution orders.

His predecessor, Jinen Nagase, approved ten hangings in his eleven months in office, the highest number of executions approved by any one justice minister since a moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in 1993.

Hatoyama, who has examined proposals to streamline executions, stressed the orderly nature of the country's death penalty system.

"We have considered a variety of factors so that we can carry out executions in a methodical manner, rather than thinking about the intervals and the timing," AFP quoted him as telling reporters.

"For the victims and their families, all the cases caused incomparable sorrow. I made the orders upon careful consideration," he said.

Amnesty International strongly condemned the executions, highlighting that Japan was "conspicuously the only country with a fully operational death penalty system" among major industrialized countries.

Planned executions in the US are currently blocked until the Supreme Court rules on whether they can be carried out by lethal injection.

"The Japanese government has shown its disregard for both the universal protection of human rights and the clear international trend to move away from using the death penalty," said Tim Parritt, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Asia Pacific Programme.

According to Amnesty International, at least 23 cases carrying the death sentence were confirmed by the courts in Japan last year, the highest number since 1962.

Related stories:
Japan finally names three executed -- 9 December, 2007
Minister wants ‘tranquil’ killing: Japan -- 29 October, 2007
Japan: New minister will approve hangings -- 4 September, 2007
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
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006

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