JAPAN – Open Letter to Minister of Justice Tanigaki (English)

27 December 2012

Dear Minister

Open Letter: Establishing a Moratorium on Executions in Japan

On the occasion of your appointment as Japan’s new Minister of Justice, Amnesty International takes this opportunity to urge you to introduce a moratorium on executions and to take positive steps to initiate a national public debate on the death penalty in Japan, with a view to its abolition.

Japan is among the minority of countries which still carries out executions. Only 21 out of 198 countries carried out executions in 2011. Japan refrained from using the death penalty in 2011 but has carried out seven executions in 2012. The only other G8 country to carry out executions is the USA.

The fourth UN General Assembly (UNGA) draft resolution[1] calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, which was adopted in November at the Third Committee of the UNGA, received 110 votes in favour, 39 votes against and 36 abstentions, the highest support for such resolutions to date. The plenary session of the UNGA adopted the draft resolution in December. Closer to home, Mongolia ratified the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in January, committing the country to ending use of the death penalty.

Your predecessors have noted the need for Japan to consider the worldwide trend toward abolition of the death penalty. In November 2012, former Minister of Justice Makoto Taki stated that “…countries in Europe have abolished death penalty … and the UN also stated we need to stop executions wherever possible … we need to take into account these international trends”. Japan’s continued use of the death penalty puts it at odds with this unmistakable international trend.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. Our organization calls on you and the Ministry of Justice in Japan to immediately introduce a moratorium on executions and initiate a national public debate aimed at promoting full abolition of the death penalty in Japan.

Yours sincerely

Salil Shetty

Secretary General

Hideki Wakabayashi

Secretary General – Amnesty International Japan


[1] Draft resolution A/C.3/67/L.44/Rev.1.

pdf of letter:

271212 Japan AI lettter appealing for moratorium

ADPAN Newsflash – Japan

3 August 2012

ADPAN condemns the execution of Junya Hattori, 40, and Kyozo Matsumura, 31, carried out on 3 August in Japan. These executions are a further setback after Tomoyuki Furusawa, Yasuaki Uwabe and Yasutoshi Matsuda were hanged on 29 March this year – after nearly two years without executions. It is estimated that around 130 people are currently on death row in Japan.

Justice Minister Makoto Taki, who assumed office on 4 June stated on 14 June that he supports the death penalty because it’s on the books for heinous crimes and also explained that introducing the option of life without parole is not currently a priority.

Executions in Japan are carried out by hanging and prisoners are executed without advance notice given to their families and lawyers. The prisoners themselves are only told a few hours before or are occasionally taken straight from their cells to the gallows without any advance notice at all. ADPAN is also concerned that Japan still relies heavily on the daiyo kangoku (substitute prison) system, which allows the police to detain and interrogate a suspect for up to 23 days with very limited access to legal counsel. This puts suspects at great risk of torture and other ill-treatment in order to obtain a “confession” and ensure a conviction – Japan currently has a 99% conviction rate.

ADPAN opposes the death penalty in all cases, and calls upon the Japanese government to place an immediate moratorium on all executions, to commute all death sentences and to work toward full abolition of the death penalty for all crimes.

Out of the 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, 17 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, one has abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes and 10 are considered abolitionist in practice, with Mongolia being the most recent country in the region to abolish the death penalty by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.