Last Friday, the fourth and fifth executions in Japan for 2013 were carried out as two former yakuza members were put to death by hanging. While no one, maybe apart from their families, would really mourn their deaths because of the “heinous and brutal” crimes they committed, human rights groups fear that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government’s stance on the death penalty is moving back towards the “dark ages”.
During the brief reign of the left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan in 2011, it was the first year without a hanging in Japan for 19 years. Observers were optimistic that the country was moving towards abolition of the death penalty, but after an 18 month hiatus, the executions restarted in March 2012. Since then, 12 death row convicts’ sentences have been carried out, and groups like Amnesty International are worried that there is a “chilling” escalation since the Liberal Democratic Party came back to power, according to Catherine Baber, the organization’s Asia Pacific director. Hideki Wakabayashi, executive director of Amnesty International Japan predicts that there will be one more execution before the Upper House election in July and it might “open the floodgates” for more in the near future.
Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said that the general public clearly support capital punishment and that he is willing to sign more execution orders. The perceived support for the death penalty came after a series of particularly horrible crimes that shocked and terrified the public. This includes the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway which killed 13, the housewife who served curry laced with arsenic at a festival in 1998, and the man who knifed eight schoolchildren to death in 2001.
But Amnesty International says that by increasing the number of executions, Japan is isolating itself internationally because more than 140 other countries have already abolished the death penalty in law and in practice. Their statistics also show that only 1 in 10 countries in the world carry out capital punishment. And even though countries like US, China and Iran still carry out executions, the organization insists that there is still no hard evidence that it is a deterrent to heinous crimes.
[ via CS Monitor ]