Amnesty seeks moratorium on executions as Japan hangs 2

Japan on Friday hanged two death-row inmates, the first executions this year, local media report.

Koichi Shoji, 64, was hanged in the Tokyo Detention House, above, (Credit: Justice Ministry, Govt of Japan) while Yasunori Suzuki, 50, was executed in the Fukuoka Detention House.

The number of executions since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in 2012 has now gone up to 38.

Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita said Shoji and Suzuki were merciless to their victims, all women, and the death penalty was ordered after carefully considering whether the cases deserved a retrial.

Amnesty International condemned the executions saying they showed Tokyo’s utter disregard for human life.

Shoji was found guilty of robbery and murder of two women in Yamato, Kanagawa, in 2001 along with his girlfriend.

Suzuki was convicted in the robbery and murder of three women in Fukuoka between late 2004 and early 2005.

Amnesty’s response

Roseann Rife, East Asia research director of Amnesty International, said while most nations have repealed death penalty, Japan is continuing with this ultimate cruel practice.

Some 110 prisoners are awaiting execution in Japan.

As many as 170 countries have abolished or pressed the pause button on executions.

When Japan hosts the UN Crime Congress next April, its criminal justice system may come under the scrutiny of several global panels, Rife said.

She urged Japanese authorities to declare moratorium on all executions and start debate on death penalty as a first step towards its abolition.

The UN had called for a universal moratorium on death penalty as early as 2007.

Japan’s Federation of Bar Associations wants the government to bring in a legislation to abolish capital punishment by 2020 citing cases of death row inmates who were found innocent after retrial.

Shrouded in secrecy

Most often, executions are done in secret in Japan. Death-row inmates come to know about it only hours before they are blindfolded and led out of their cell.

Their families are informed of the execution only hours later, according to Amnesty International.

Although rules say death penalty should be implemented within six months after the sentencing, it is often carried out after decades which is more painful than death for prisoners.

Thirteen members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult involved in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway were executed only last year.

Strangely, despite the abrupt and secretive nature of the executions, most people in Japan back capital punishment.