Secretive executions can’t hide the fact that Japan is on the wrong side of history when it comes to the death penalty, Amnesty International said after a death row inmate was hanged on Friday.
Kenichi Tajiri, 45, was executed at Fukuoka Detention Centre in the early hours of Friday. He was sentenced to death in 2012 for two murders committed in 2004 and 2011.
“The death penalty never delivers justice, it is a cruel and inhumane act. The Japanese government cannot hide the fact that it is on the wrong side of history, the majority of the world’s states have turned away from the death penalty.”
The execution is the third to be carried out in Japan in 2016 and the 17th under Prime Minister Abe’s government.
The hanging comes a month after the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations formally adopted a policy calling for an end to the death penalty. Among other things, the lawyers’ group highlighted the risk of wrongful convictions and the lack of evidence that the death penalty reduces crime.
The Japanese authorities’ reprehensible execution of two people today, continues to place the country on the wrong side of history, Amnesty International said.
Yasutoshi Kamata, a 75-year-old-man, was hanged in Osaka Detention Centre on Friday morning. Junko Yoshida, 56, was hanged in the early hours of Friday morning at Fukuoka Detention Centre, in southern Japan. Yoshida is the first woman to be executed in Japan since 2012.
“These disgraceful executions demonstrate a failure of leadership by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.
“It is long overdue for Japan to abolish this ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment.”
The executions are the first to be carried out in Japan in 2016, and takes the total number of executions under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s current government to 16.
Junko Yoshida was sentenced to death in 2010 for the murder of two people, in 1998 and 1999. Yasutoshi Kamata’s death sentence was confirmed in 2005, after he was convicted of the murders of five people between 1985 and 1994.
The Japanese authorities’ reprehensible use of the death penalty shows no sign of letting up as another two men were executed today, taking the total number of executions to 14 under the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Amnesty International said.
Sumitoshi Tsuda, 63, was hanged in the early hours of Friday morning at Tokyo detention centre, the first execution of a person sentenced to death in a lay judge trial. He was convicted in 2011 of killing three of his neighbours. Kazuyuki Wakabayashi, 39, was executed at Sendai detention centre in north-east Japan. He was sentenced to death in 2007 for robbery and violence which left two people dead.
“The Japanese authorities’ willingness to put people to death is chilling and must end now before more lives are lost. The death penalty is not justice or an answer to tackling crime, it is a cruel form of punishment that flies in the face of respect for life,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.
“Japan should immediately introduce an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty.”
The death in prison of a Japanese man who spent more than 46 years facing execution, after a conviction based on a forced “confession”, underlines the urgent need for a review of all similar cases, Amnesty International said today.
Okunishi Masaru passed away at Hachioji Medical Prison on Sunday, aged 89. He maintained his innocence and was determined to seek a retrial. Eight previous requests for a retrial were rejected. He was moved to the medical prison from Nagoya Detention Centre in 2012 after his health deteriorated.
“Okunishi Masaru may not have gone to the gallows, but Japan’s justice system totally failed him. It is outrageous he was denied the retrial his case unquestionably merited and instead was left to languish on death row for more than 46 years,” said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.
“It is too late for Okunishi Masaru but others remain on death row convicted primarily on the basis of forced “confessions”. The Japanese authorities must urgently review their cases to ensure that time does not run out for them to see justice.”
The Japanese authorities are attempting to avoid public scrutiny by carrying out its first execution this year while the country’s attention is focused elsewhere, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
Tsukasa Kanda, 44, was hanged in the early hours of Thursday morning at Nagoya detention centre. He was convicted in 2009 of robbery and homicide.
The execution took place when the national political and media attention is on the government’s controversial plans to extend Japan’s military role.
“With the country looking the other way, Japan’s authorities decided it was politically convenient to resume executions. To take a man’s life in this way is the politics of the gutter,” said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.
“The government is avoiding a full and frank debate on the use of the death penalty because the arguments it puts forward do not stand up to scrutiny.”
The Japanese authorities’ determination to continue with secret executions despite growing concerns on the use of the death penalty in the country is a scar on the justice system, said Amnesty International.
Masanori Kawasaki, 68 was hanged early on Thursday morning at Osaka detention centre. He was convicted in 2008 of the murder of three relatives.
The execution is the first since a court ordered the immediate release in March of Hakamada Iwao, who spent more than four decades on death row after an unfair trial. Prosecutors have appealed the decision to grant Hakamada a retrial, despite the court stating police were likely to have fabricated evidence.
“It is deplorable that not long after fundamental flaws in Japan’s criminal justice system were so blatantly exposed, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has chosen to sign another death warrant,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.
“Instead of sending more people to the gallows there needs to be urgent reform of a justice system that at present is not worthy of the name.”
Every morning for almost 47 years, Iwao Hakamada woke up in a Japanese jail cell and faced the possibility that he might be taken to the gallows to be hanged. As the years passed he became known as the world’s longestserving
Then, after almost half a century, a court reviewed the evidence used to convict Hakamada. On March 27, the court ordered his immediate release and retrial (although prosecutors are prolonging the torment by appealing the retrial). Hours later, the frail-looking 78-year-old walked out of the Tokyo Detention Centre beside his sister Hideko who had fought relentlessly for his freedom.
A decision by Japanese prosecutors to appeal against a court ruling to grant Hakamada Iwao a retrial will only add to the decades of psychological torture he has already endured, said Amnesty International.
Hakamada, 78, spent more than four decades on death row before a court ordered a retrial and his immediate release last Thursday.
“For 46 years Hakamada has lived under constant fear of execution, never knowing from one day to the next if he is going to be put to death. This appeal will only add to his suffering,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.
The prosecution’s appeal was lodged with the Tokyo High Court on Monday. The court could take up to two years to rule.
“This move by the prosecutors could deny an elderly man the retrial he unquestionably deserves. It appears to be a deliberate ploy to delay in the full knowledge that time is running out for Hakamada,” added Roseann Rife.
“The prosecution’s case was completely discredited by the court’s ruling last Thursday. There are now serious questions as to why this appeal has been lodged.”
The Japanese courts have at last seen sense and granted a retrial to a prisoner who has spent over four decades on death row, said Amnesty International. The organization is now urging prosecutors to accept the court's decision.
Hakamada Iwao, 78, was sentenced to death in 1968 and is believed to be the longest-serving death row inmate in the world. After an unfair trial, he was convicted of the murder of his boss, his boss’s wife and their two children.
Shizuoka District Court granted his latest request for a retrial at a hearing earlier today. Prosecutors have four days to appeal the court’s decision.
“It would be most callous and unfair of prosecutors to appeal the court’s decision. Time is running out for Hakamada to receive the fair trial he was denied more than four decades ago,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.
“If ever there was a case that merits a retrial, this is it. Hakamada was convicted on the basis of a forced confession and there remain unanswered questions over recent DNA evidence.”
The Japanese Supreme Court's decision to deny a retrial to an 87-year old death row prisoner who was convicted of murder based on a forced confession is a "travesty of justice", Amnesty International said today after his latest appeal was rejected.
Okunishi Masaru, who has spent more than 40 years facing execution and is one of the oldest death row prisoners in the world, had his seventh request for a retrial turned down yesterday. It means he is likely to die in prison despite doubts over the soundness of his conviction.
"It is a travesty of justice that Okunishi Masaru was again denied the retrial his case unquestionably merits,” said Catherine Baber, Asia Pacific Director for Amnesty International.
The octogenarian has been on death row since 1969, after being convicted of the murders of five women. He “confessed” to the crime after being interrogated by police for many hours over five days and with no lawyer present.
During his first trial he retracted his “confession” and was acquitted due to lack of evidence. However, a higher court reversed the verdict and sentenced him to death.
The execution of two death row inmates in Japan shows that a chilling escalation of death penalty use under the new Liberal Democratic government is continuing, Amnesty International said.
Today, two men - Yoshihide Miyagi, 56, and Katsuji Hamasaki, 64 – were hanged in Tokyo. They were both convicted of murder after shooting rival gang members to death in a restaurant in Ichihara city in 2005.
They are the fourth and fifth executions to take place in Japan since December 2012, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office. The other three executions took place in February 2013. In total, Japan has executed 12 people since March 2012 – before then, no executions had been carried out for 20 months.
“This shocking news unfortunately reinforces our fears that the new government is increasing the pace of executions in an alarming way,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.
“We have already seen five executions this year, and it shows that the government has no intention of heeding international calls to start a genuine and open public debate on the death penalty including abolition.”
The execution of three death row inmates is an ominous and regressive move by Japan’s new Liberal Democratic government, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The executions are the first since the administration took office in December and raises fears that the pace of executions may increase during Prime Minister Abe’s term.
Masahiro Kanagawa, 29, was hanged at Tokyo Detention Centre on Thursday, along with Kaoru Kobayashi, 44, at Osaka Detention Centre and Keiki Kano, 62, at Nagoya Detention Centre. Kobayashi and Kano were executed despite both being in the process of preparing to apply for retrials.
Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s East Asia Director, said: “These executions, carried out under a shroud of secrecy, are a callous act of premeditated killing. The authorities appeared alarmingly merciless in their willingness to execute during Shinzo Abe’s previous stint as Prime Minister. The fear is that this marks the beginning of a new wave of cold-blooded killing by the State. It raises serious questions whether such executions are carried out purely for political expediency.