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Japan: three prisoners hanged in 'abhorrent' resumption of executions

First executions in country for two years

Death row inmates typically told of their execution only shortly beforehand 

‘Today’s abhorrent resumption of executions is a damning indictment of this government’s lack of respect for the right to life’ - Chiara Sangiorgio

Amnesty International has condemned the execution of three prisoners in Japan, the first executions in the country for two years.

The three who were hanged earlier today - Yasutaka Fujishiro, Mitsunori Onogawa and Tomoaki Takanezawa - were the first executions under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who came to power in October. 

Yasutaka Fujishiro killed seven of his relatives in 2004, while Mitsunori Onogawa and Tomoaki Takanezawa were convicted of two murders in 2003.

Fujishiro suffered a personality disorder but a court ruled he could be held criminally responsible for his actions. Onogawa had filed a second request for a retrial, with a decision still pending when he was executed. Meanwhile, Takanezawa had previously withdrawn an appeal to the high court filed by his lawyer. His lawyer had requested that the court cancel the withdrawal but his objection was rejected.

Japan’s most recent execution prior to today took place in December 2019, when a Chinese man convicted of four murders was hanged.

Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty Advisor at Amnesty International, said:

“The recent appointment of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was a chance for progress on human rights in Japan. But today’s abhorrent resumption of executions is a damning indictment of this government’s lack of respect for the right to life.

“After two years without executions, this feels like a missed opportunity for Japan to take long overdue steps to abolish the cruel practice of the death penalty. 

“More than 100 countries worldwide have completely abolished the death penalty in law, and two-thirds in total have abandoned it in law or practice. 

“It is dismaying that Japan bucks this trend by continuing to use this cruel and inhuman punishment. It is high time to establish a moratorium on all executions as a first important step.”

Shrouded in secrecy

Japan is one of a handful of countries that has carried out executions in recent years. Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy, with prisoners typically given only a few hours’ notice and some given no warning at all before their sentences are carried out. Their families are usually notified about an execution only after it has taken place. Amnesty has repeatedly called on Japan to establish an immediate official moratorium on all executions as a first step towards total abolition.

Last year, Amnesty recorded 483 executions in 18 countries (excluding China), the lowest number of executions recorded in at least a decade. Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual, or the method used to carry out the execution.

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