Monday, 29 October 2007

Minister wants ‘tranquil’ killing: Japan

Japan's justice minister has speculated about introducing a "more peaceful" or "tranquil" method of execution.

Kunio Hatoyama did not say what a better alternative might be, but the remarks suggest he may be considering a change to lethal injection.

Japan currently executes prisoners by hanging.

"I am fully aware that 'death by hanging' is written in the criminal code," Hatoyama said on Wednesday after a parliamentary committee meeting, according to a Reuters report.

"A square part of the floor opens up and they fall with a thud.

"I honestly wonder if there isn't a more tranquil way of doing this."

Lethal injection is under seige in the United States, with states reviewing the method following a number of botched executions and legal challenges claiming it is an intensely cruel and extremely painful means of killing a prisoner.

In March, Indonesia's Attorney-General said the country might replace execution by firing squad with lethal injection.

An increasing number of provinces in China have moved to lethal injection and Viet Nam is reportedly considering the move.

"No one" wants to sign the order
Last month Hatoyama sparked controversy when he suggested prisoners should be hanged automatically after their sentences were finalised, without the justice minister having to sign the order.

"The law should be abided by," he told a media conference in late September. "But no one wants to put his signature on an execution order.

"I wonder if there is any way not to delegate the responsibility solely to the justice minister."

He said there should be an "automatic and objective" procedure for executing prisoners without the minister's involvement.

He later said he wanted to set up a study group to examine the country's system for ordering executions.

Related stories:
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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