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Archive for the ‘Death Penalty’ Category

(Following on from The Death Penalty in Japan Part 2: Criminal Justice and Opposition to Capital Punishment)

Popular opinion

The Japanese government, and in particular the Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, justify their position on the death penalty with the widespread support it has among the public. There is an oft-quoted figure that Japan enjoys a pro-death penalty stance of around 81.4%, which has been increasing from a low of 56.9% in 1975.

This statistic comes from a 2005 survey carried out by the government, whose motives and questioning methods could be open to suspicion. At the very least, it can be assumed that they did not give the respondees a quick crash course on death row, miscarriages of justice and other unpalatable topics beforehand. Nevertheless, the figure is the likeliest indicator of the support for the death penalty here.

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(Following on from The Death Penalty in Japan – Part 1: Recent Executions and Kunio Hatoyama)

Innocence

I like to think my attitude towards capital punishment is due to my Quaker background, but when I was a child there was also a fright factor that lingered at the back of my mind – what if I was mistaken for a killer and executed?

Usually I am wary of the “innocent victims” argument against the death penalty, as this stance seems to suggest that it is more acceptable to execute those whose guilt is undoubted. However, it is unfortunately important to discuss this issue in a country where the justice system seems to have deficiencies which can lead to the state killing of innocents.

Sakae Menda was on his way to becoming one of these “innocent victims” in Japan. He was originally convicted in 1951, and so it has to be asked, has the system improved since then?

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Welcome to Japan

On December 7th 2007, the day after I arrived in Japan, the news that three men had been executed was released by the authorities. The men were Seiha Fujima (47), Hiroki Fukawa (42) and Noboru Ikemoto (75).

It surprises many to learn that Japan utilises the death penalty, a practice which is facing growing international condemnation. I think it would surprise them even more to learn of the inhumane treatment of death row inmates, the inherent flaws in the prosecution process and, in spite of all this, the widespread public support capital punishment continues to enjoy here. The following article, which is in three parts, seeks to highlight these issues, to explore the underlying causes of this situation, and asks what might be done about it.

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