Two men executed in Japan's secretive death chambers

Human rights groups condemn Japanese government’s ‘shocking disregard for human life’

Peter Stubley
Saturday 03 August 2019 16:50
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Two men executed in Japan's secretive death chambers

Two men have been executed in Japan’s secretive death chambers, as human rights groups called for an end to the “deplorable” punishment.

Koichi Shoji, 64, and Yasunori Suzuki, 50, were hanged at two separate detention centres in Tokyo and Fukuoka in the early hours of Friday morning after being convicted of murder.

The executions were the first in the country this year but bring the total carried out under prime minister Shinzo Abe’s administration to 38. Another 110 people remain on death row.

“These executions demonstrate the Japanese government’s shocking disregard for human life,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty in all cases.

“While the rest of the world increasingly turns its back on the death penalty, Japan remains stuck in the past by continuing with this ultimate cruel and irreversible punishment.

“It is deplorable that the government continues to carry out executions. As Japan prepares to host the UN Crime Congress next April, it is high time that its criminal justice system is reviewed to fully comply with international human rights law and standards.

“We urge the Japanese authorities to establish an immediate moratorium on all executions and promote an informed debate on the death penalty as first steps towards its abolition.”

Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours’ notice, while some are given no warning at all. Their families are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.

Shoji was convicted of raping and killing Hiroko Hayashi, 54, and killing Fumiko Osawa, 42, in Kanagawa Prefecture in 2001, according to Japan Times.

Suzuki was found guilty for the rape and murder of Nana Kubota, 18, the killing of Toshiko Onaka, 62, and the attempted rape and murder of Keiko Fukushima, 23, between December 2004 and January 2005.

Justice minister Takashi Yamashita said at a news conference after the executions that the decision was made “following careful deliberation over whether there were any grounds for suspending the execution.”

“Sexual assault, including rape, is an unforgivable crime in itself,” he added. ”These cases were particularly harrowing, as the criminals also murdered their victims.”

Last year Japan executed 13 members of the doomsday cult that carried out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

Japan will host the 14th United Nations congress on crime prevention and criminal justice, which is expected to address the use of the death penalty globally.

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