Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Japan may execute before year ends

There are fears Japan may carry out more executions after the current session of parliament is due to end on 25 December.

The country doesn't usually execute while parliament is in session, raising concerns of a spate of hangings each time the Japanese parliament (Diet) goes into recess.

Japan has executed fifteen people so far in 2008, the highest rate in more than thirty years.

The last executions were carried out in October, when two convicted murderers were sent to the gallows by new justice minister Eisuke Mori, who had only been in the job a matter of weeks.

Next in line?
Amnesty International (AI) is concerned Makino Tadashi may be among those hanged before the end of the year.

Makino Tadashi has been at serious risk of execution since 30 September, when his latest appeal for clemency was rejected.

He was sentenced to death in 1990 for murdering a woman and injuring two others, after previously serving 16 and a half years in prison for a murder and robbery committed when he was 19 years old.

According to AI appeals, his lawyers argued unsuccessfully during his trial in 1994 that "he lacked adequate mental capacity and could not be responsible for his crimes".

A series of appeals and legal challenges have all been rejected.

Increasing toll
There has been a rapid increase in executions in Japan since December 2006, with 28 people hanged in two years.

Japan executed four prisoners, including two men over seventy years of age, on 25 December 2006, Christmas Day.

Activists and lawyers had earlier expressed concern that the government would resume executions after the final parliamentary session for the year.

Executions in Japan are usually carried out in secret, and prisoners are only given a few hours notice they are about to die.

According to AI, "this means they must spend their entire time on death row fearing they could be taken for execution at any time".

The organisation said their families "typically receive no notice at all".

Urging action
AI is encouraging people to write letters of appeal to Minister of Justice Eisuke Mori urging him not to execute Tadashi Makino, and calling on him to end the secrecy surrounding the death penalty and order an immediate moratorium on the death penalty.

Appeal letters should be sent to:

MORI Eisuke
Minister of Justice
1-1-1 Kasumigaseki
Chiyoda-kuTokyo 100-8977, Japan
Fax: +81 3 3592 7088
+81 3 5511 7200 (via Public Information & Foreign Liaison Office)

Salutation: Dear Minister

Related stories:
Japan: Record toll with new hangings -- 28 October 2008
Japan: New minister faces next hanging -- 14 October 2008
Japan: New minister sends three to death -- 12 September 2008
Executions in Japan -- 2006 - 2008 -- 12 April 2008
Japan: Minister steps up rate of hangings -- 12 April 2008
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August 2006

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