On August 29 two men convicted of murder were executed in Japan. In a press release Amnesty International called the news “part of a grim pattern of a return to the death penalty in Japan under Prime Minister Abe.”
Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59, were hanged, with Kobayashi executed at Sendai detention centre and Takamizawa at Tokyo detention centre.
According to Amnesty International, a total of three people have been executed in Japan in 2014 and 127 remain on death row. Executions in Japan are often shrouded in secrecy, prisoners are given very little notice and their families are notified about the execution only after it has taken place. Jonathan Cornejo of Amnesty UK said, “Decades of solitary confinement followed by being lead to the gallows with zero notice only adds to the overall cruelty of the Japanese death penalty.”
In Japan the only crimes for which capital punishment is permitted are murder and treason. Amnesty International has said executions typically take place in secret and criticised the country’s capital punishment system because it relies heavily on confessions, sometimes obtained under duress. In a 2005 report they described how confessions are extracted while suspects are held in substitute prisons and interrogated before they are charged “detainees can be held for up to 23 days after arrest, with no state-funded legal representation. They are typically interrogated for 12 hours a day: no lawyers can be present, no recordings are made, and they are put under constant pressure to confess.”
The organisation is currently calling for justice for Hakamada Iwao, a 78-year-old man who spent 46 years on death row after an unfair trial. Hakamada was given a temporary release in March and granted a retrial based on new DNA evidence that could prove his innocence.
Despite the court stating that the police were likely to have fabricated evidence, prosecutors are appealing against his retrial. More than 20,000 people in the UK have called for the prosecution to retract their current appeal through a petition on the Amnesty International UK website.