Japan retains the mandatory death penalty for ordinary crimes, including homicide and treason.  Although Japan has been a party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since 1979, it has neither signed nor ratified the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR allowing for the right of individual petition nor the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

Upon invitation by the British Embassy and the EU Taskforce, the Executive Directors visited Japan in November 2010 as part of an expert delegation from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The delegation also included Professor Roger Hood, a leading criminologist and academic from the University of Oxford and Bart Stapert, the former head of Amnesty International in the Netherlands.

The delegation met with the Ministry of Justice, lawyers and NGOs, explored potential opportunities for collaboration and discussed how the work undertaken in other countries can be applied to assist in the reform of the death penalty in Japan. The Executive Directors also participated as panelists in a seminar held at Waseda University where Professor Hood gave a keynote address entitled “The Death Penalty: Japan in World Perspective”. This visit built upon their earlier visit to Japan in November 2009, during which they met with representatives of the British Embassy to discuss the potential for The Death Penalty Project to assist with the on-going debate on the reform of the death penalty in Japan.

A summary of the visit was reported on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website and His Excellency, David Warren, British Ambassador to Japan also wrote an article about the visit and urged for further discussion and reform of the death penalty in Japan. For more information, please see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website here.

On 12 March 2013, a Report on the Death Penalty in Japan was launched at the British Embassy in Tokyo at an event opened by the British Ambassador, Tim Hitchens. The Report was published in association with the Centre for Prisoners’ Rights in Japan, and co-written by Maiko Tagusari, secretary-general of the Centre for Prisoners’ Rights, Professor David Johnson from the University of Hawaii, an expert in Japanese criminal justice, and Dr Mai Sato, from the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford.