Amnesty International Urges Japan to Halt Executions

Press Release
September 27, 2012

Amnesty International Urges Japan to Halt Executions

Two executed in Japan amid fears of new wave of hangings

Contact: Carolyn Lang, clang@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International condemns the new wave of executions in Japan, which increased after two death row inmates were hanged on Thursday. One inmate was the first woman to be executed in over 15 years. The human rights organization calls for an immediate moratorium on the killings.

Sachiko Eto, 65, and Yukinori Matsuda, 39, were hanged on Thursday morning in Sendai and Fukuoka Detention Centers, respectively. Eto is the first woman to be executed in Japan since 1997.

“The executions of Matsuda and Eto are acts of premeditated, cold-blooded killing by the Japanese state,” said Roseann Rife, director of Asia at Amnesty International.

Protests against the use of the death penalty are due to take place on Thursday evening outside the Ministry of Justice in Tokyo.

The hangings bring the total number of executions in the country this year to seven people. Japan did not carry out any executions in 2011.

One hundred and thirty one people remain on death row in Japan. Amnesty International considers all individuals on death row in Japan to be at imminent risk of execution.

Makoto Taki, Japan’s Justice Minister, supports the use of the death penalty and has now authorized four executions in the four months he has been in office. The last executions took place on August 3, 2012, when two men were hanged.

The executions occurred despite election promises from the ruling Democratic Party to hold a national debate on the use of the death penalty.

“The latest executions make a mockery of the Democratic Party of Japan’s pledge to hold a national debate on abolishing the death penalty. That debate needs to happen and the government should impose an immediate moratorium on executions,” said Rife.

Japan is among a minority of countries that continue to use the death penalty. More than two thirds of countries in the world have abolished its use in law or practice.

Matsuda was given the death sentence by the Kumanoto District Court in September 2006 for the murder of two people. No mandatory appeal of his case took place, raising questions as to whether the necessary legal process recommended by international law was followed.

Eto was sentenced to death in 2002 for murder and involuntary manslaughter.

Executions in Japan are by hanging, and are usually carried out in secret. Prisoners are typically given a few hours notice, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are typically notified about the execution after it has taken place.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.