In the morning of 17 June 2008, Tsutomu Miyazaki, aged 45, Shinji Mutsuda, aged 45, and Yoshio Yamazaki, aged 73, were hanged. These executions brought to 13 the number of prisoners put to death in Japan since August 2007, when Hatoyama Kunio became Minister of Justice.
The condemned persons are not informed of the execution until a few hours before, and their relatives are only notified once it is over. The authorities usually arrange for executions to take place at election time, during parliamentary recess or national holidays, with the clear intention of avoiding parliamentary or public debate on the issue of capital punishment.
Around a hundred prisoners are currently on death row in Japan. Some of them have been there for over 30 years, expecting day after day to be told of their imminent death. Each condemned man lives in isolation in a cell measuring two by four metres, with the view of the sky blocked by a dimmed window. When he has no activity, he has to keep sitting on the floor. He is under video surveillance 24 hours a day, with the light on from 9 pm to 6.30 am to prevent suicide. He is not allowed to meet other detainees or to communicate with them. Visits, exclusively from family members and the lawyer, are severely restricted. They cannot exceed half an hour and take place through a glass pane, always in the presence of a warder. Correspondence is limited and censored.
Besides the harshness of conditions of detention and execution, there is the risk of judicial error. Capital sentences often result from unfair trials which follow long questioning sessions, threats and violence leading to « confessions ». And confession prevails over evidence...
Masao Akatori, sentenced to death for rape and murder in 1958, when he was 25, was finally declared innocent in 1987, aged 59, after spending 34 years on death row. He had assented to all his interrogators’ questions following his arrest because he could not stand torture.
Among the most industrialized nations, the G8 member States, Japan and the US are the only ones to carry out executions. Japan is even running counter to the worldwide trend as it has increased the number of executions since the December 2007 UN resolution on a universal moratorium on capital punishment.
On 10 October 2008, which will mark the 6th World Day Against Death Penalty, the Coalition Against Death Penalty, of which the FIACAT is a founder member, has chosen to focus on Asia, which accounts for 85 to 95% of all executions in the world, with particular emphasis on six countries : Pakistan, India, Viet Nam, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
We ask you to bring the Coalition’s message to Okiharu Yasuoka, Japan’s current Minister of Justice.
Please address your letter to :
Coalition mondiale contre la peine de mort
197/199 avenue Pierre Brossolette
Fax : +33 1 57 21 22 74
The Coalition will forward all letters to the Japanese authorities.
For more information, see our latest ACAT newsletter and Coalition’s website.