Friday, 18 September 2009

Japan: New justice minister urges debate

From The Japan Times, 18 September 2009

Chiba urges death penalty debate
Kyodo News

New Justice Minister Keiko Chiba said Thursday she will deal carefully with death penalty cases and called for a wide-ranging debate on whether capital punishment should be abolished.

"The death penalty involves a person's life, so I will cautiously handle (the cases) based on the duties of the justice minister," Chiba, a former lawyer, said at a news conference following the first meeting of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's new Cabinet.

The 61-year-old native of Kanagawa Prefecture said discussions are taking place on keeping or abolishing the death penalty, including whether it should be replaced with a new sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

"The lay judge system has been introduced and I believe many people have a very deep interest and various thoughts (on the issue), so I think it is something that we should find a path for through a wide-ranging public debate, if possible," she said.

Chiba said she won't give special treatment to cases involving Democratic Party of Japan leaders, such as one in which Hatoyama's fundraising body was found to have received contributions from dead people and another where a close aide to DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa was indicted over a fundraising scandal involving Nishimatsu Construction Co.

"They are not special so I would like to make appropriate decisions," said Chiba, who is a member of the Upper House.

On her Web site associated with the DPJ's Kanagawa prefectural chapter, Chiba lists the death penalty as a problem she would like to see eliminated during the 21st century. She argues that the death penalty prevents crime and forces offenders to take responsibility, but it is not the best solution.

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