Lethal injustice in Asia

Unfair trials and the use of torture to force people to confess, when combined with the most irreversible of punishments, execution, makes for a perfect storm of injustice.

Together with our partner organisations in the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, we released a report today which noted that 14 countries in Asia are currently executing more people that the rest of the world combined. This defies a global trend wherein countries have been turning their back on the practice in recent years.

The bad news continues, as both Thailand and Taiwan have resumed use of the death penalty after a period of having stopped it.

It’s a bleak picture and we know that speculation about people being killed in error is tragically sometimes correct. In January, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice admitted that a prisoner sentenced to death, Chiang Kuo-ching, a private in the Air Force, had been executed in error in 1997 for a murder he did not commit. The authorities acknowledged that a statement “confessing” to the crime had been made as a result of torture. Posthumous pardons and apologies are futile when the chosen punishment is so utterly final and irrevocable.

It is too late for the thousands of people who have been sent to their deaths (some for mandatory death sentences for possession of drugs and other relatively minor offences) but it isn’t too late for Hakamada Iwao. He is believed to be the world's longest-serving death row inmate who has spent the last 43 years awaiting execution in Japan. Convicted after an unfair trial, Hakamada Iwao is one of Amnesty's ten priority cases for this year's letter campaign, Write for Rights.

Hakamada, a former boxer, was sentenced to death in 1968. During his trial, judges raised concerns that confessions provided by the prosecution were not signed voluntarily. Of 45 documents, only one was declared admissible yet he was still sentenced to death. He has been kept in isolation for over 30 years and in Japan, usually, no notice is given prior to the execution day, and so the prisoner faces the mental torment of not knowing if each day could be their last.

The video at the top of this page shows Richard Keane, drummer in the rock band Keane, on why you should take action on belhalf of Hakamada Iwao.

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