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Japan Uses Arbitrary and Secret Executions

Executions in Japan are arbitrary and are carried out in secret. The Japanese government has repeatedly carried out executions during periods of parliamentary recess, elections and holidays. It is believed that the government chooses this timing to minimize attention.

Execution is by typically done by hanging and more than one execution is carried out at the same time. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure "the death penalty shall be executed under an order from the Minister of Justice" and once an order is given, "such execution shall be carried out without five days.”

A number of prisoners on death row have been held in solitary confinement for a decade or more, with limited contact with the outside world, being allowed to only meet close relatives on rare occasion. In most cases prisoners under a finalized death sentence are not permitted to receive letters from friends or family.

Prisoners are notified of their execution less than two hours before it occurs, and families and lawyers are never told in advance of the decision to carry out the execution. Thus the prisoner is deprived of the opportunity to meet with family for final farewells, and last minute appeals by lawyers are impossible. Most prisoners under sentence of death endure considerable mental distress because they have been imprisoned for many years.

There are at least 118 people under sentence of death in Japan, some 50 of them have had their sentences upheld by the Supreme Court (or become final in the lower courts) and can be executed at any time. The oldest prisoner is 85 years old and has been under death sentence for some 35 years.

AI INDEX: ASA 22/010/2002 29 November 2002

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Copyright © Laura Rowe.