On the eve of the EU-Japan Summit to be held in Brussels on May 4th 2009, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Center for Prisoners Rights (CPR), FIDH's partner organization in Japan, call upon the European Union to put the issue of the death penalty in Japan at the top of the agenda.
The FIDH report entitled "The Death Penalty in Japan: The law of silence, against the current international trend" published last autumn, highlighted the gravity of the situation.
"Japan continues to sentence criminals to death and lock them up for decades in prisons where secrecy and isolation reign, in ignorance or disregard of world opinion", states Florence Bellivier, FIDH Secretary General. The number of executions in Japan is constantly rising: "2008 marked a record number of executions for the last fifteen years: we are witnessing a real step backwards", says Dan Van Raemdonck, FIDH Vice-President. In 2008, 15 people were executed and 100 people still remained on death row.
Furthermore, no trial review of death sentences has been accepted since 1986 and no one has been pardoned since 1975. Kunio Hatoyama, also known as the Shinigami (God of Death), because of the record number of execution orders signed during his mandate as Justice Minister, has been appointed Minister of the Interior in the new Aso government.
Last October, the United Nations Human Rights Committee reiterated its concern regarding the "Daiyo Kangoku" (the substitute detention system), under which suspects can be detained in police detention facilities for a period of up to 23 days to facilitate investigations, without the possibility of bail and with limited access to legal council, especially during the first 72 hours of arrest. This system increases the risk of prolonged interrogations and abusive interrogation methods with the aim of obtaining confessions. The UN has called for the abolition of this system and compliance by Japan with international human rights law.
The UN experts also noted that "the number of executions has steadily increased in recent years: death row inmates are kept in solitary confinement, often for protracted periods, and are executed without prior notice before the day of execution and, in some cases, at an advanced age or despite the fact that they have mental disabilities".
"We hope that the European Union will take advantage of this Summit to echo the concerns expressed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, on the basis of the EU's third country policy guidelines on Death Penalty, adopted in 1998 and revised in 2008", concluded Maiko Tagusari, CPR Secretary General.