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September 30, 2014

Reviewing how death is different (but still being used) in Japan

This new piece from The Economist, headlined "The death penalty in Japan: Hanging tough," discusses the on-going debate over capital punishment in the Land of the Rising Sun.  Here are excerpts:

It is one of the anomalies of Japan’s approach to the death penalty that a stricken conscience can bring the system grinding to a halt.  At least two Japanese justice ministers have refused to sign execution orders, most recently Seiken Sugiura, a devout Buddhist who oversaw a 15-month moratorium from 2005 to 2006.  But Japan’s new justice minister, Midori Matsushima, seems unburdened by such doubts.

Ms Matsushima, who took office this month, has swatted away demands to review the system.  Japan is one of 22 nations and the only developed country — apart from America, where it is falling out of favour — that retains capital punishment.  “I don’t think it deserves any immediate reform,” she said last week: in her view the gallows are needed “to punish certain very serious crimes”.

Calls for a review have grown since the release earlier this year of Iwao Hakamada, a 78-year-old who spent 45 years of his life in a toilet-sized cell awaiting execution.  A Japanese court said the police evidence that put him behind bars in 1966 was probably fabricated.  Mr Hakamada, dubbed the world’s longest-serving death-row prisoner, is awaiting a fresh verdict later this year.  Prosecutors have lodged an appeal against his retrial.

Opponents are hoping that the state’s stubborn fight to wheel another elderly man back to the gallows (he is severely ill and suffers from advanced dementia) may trigger debate and a backlash.  But critics face an uphill struggle. Japan’s media largely steers clear of the topic.  Ms Matsushima points to public support of over 85% on carefully-worded surveys put out by the cabinet: respondents reply to whether execution is “unavoidable if the circumstance demands it”.

Mr Hakamada would not be the first elderly or infirm inmate to be hanged in Japan.  On Christmas day in 2006, Fujinami Yoshio, aged 75, was brought to the gallows in the Tokyo Detention Centre in a wheelchair.  Even the openly abolitionist Keiko Chiba, who was justice minister from 2009 to 2010, failed to make a dent in the system.  In July 2010 she signed and attended two executions in a bid, she said, to start a public discussion that quickly petered out.

September 30, 2014 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

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Comments

This is just a hit piece by a left wing propaganda outlet. I am not reading the article. They pick on one exception and make a big deal out of it. They do not even say if the old man is still ultraviolent and has hurt a lot of staff in his dementia.

Prof. Berman, aren't you just bored yet with posting articles that agree with your left center viewpoint? Don't you want to try a rare article that is right center, for example, nothing radical, like a little cinnamon on a bland porridge?

The Japanese death addresses the sole cruelty of the death penalty in the US. No announced dates. The condemned learns of the date the day it takes place. Even the moribund. terminal cancer patient is spared a date certain.

Here is a more neutral description from 2010.

http://deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/japan-opens-up-death-chamber-to-media.html

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 30, 2014 10:40:38 AM

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