The recent execution of three death row prisoners in Japan in February this year made last week’s launch of the Death Penalty Project report into the use of capital punishment in Japan all the more timely.
The report, which was launched at the British Embassy in Tokyo on 12 March at an event opened by the British Ambassador, Tim Hitchens, 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.
The report provides an assessment of Japan’s legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Japan ratified in 1979. While the retention of the death penalty is not itself a breach of the ICCPR, Japan is under an obligation to develop domestic laws and practices that progressively restrict the use of the death penalty pending abolition. The report demonstrates that Japan has failed to meet the requirements under the ICCPR in relation to fair trial guarantees, the provision of procedures for appeal and the granting of clemency, as well as the humane treatment of persons under sentence of death. Japan is therefore violating its obligations under the ICCPR on the use of the death penalty.
The report also critically explores the notion that majority public support for the death penalty is an obstacle to abolition. It presents the findings of three surveys conducted by Dr Mai Sato, as well as a critique of the Japanese government’s public opinion survey.
Saul Lehrfreund, co-executive director of The Death Penalty Project, said:
‘The application of capital punishment in Japan is strictly limited by the ICCPR and related international norms which provide binding minimum standards which have to be applied in all countries that still impose capital punishment. This report demonstrates an urgent need for Japan’s government and judiciary to reform the use of the death penalty pending its abolition. We hope this report will be of great interest and concern to all those who seek to bring about improvements in the processes and conditions under which the death penalty is enforced in Japan and its eventual abolition.’
The launch was broadcasted live on Ustream.
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