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

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