EU: Don’t stay silent on Japan’s accelerating use of the death penalty

EU: Don’t stay silent on Japan’s accelerating use of the death penalty

(Brussels, 4 May) As the number of recorded executions in Japan goes up, the EU must urgently raise the issue of the death penalty with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, says Amnesty International ahead of the EU-Japan Summit in Prague.

In a letter addressed to the Czech Presidency (available here) Amnesty International called on the EU to live up to its own commitment to use every opportunity to raise human rights concerns with third countries at all levels.

“The EU is vocal about its common values with Japan, particularly on human rights, but remarkably has failed to confront its strategic partner about the accelerating use of the death penalty. Fifteen people were executed in 2008, the highest known number in over 30 years.” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office.

Despite being the most advanced industrialized democracy in the region, Japan is among the 13 countries which have carried out executions every year for the past five years. There are estimated to be approximately 100 people on death row. The prison authorities reportedly carry out executions by hanging, usually in secret. Prisoners are notified only on the morning of their execution and their families are informed only after it has taken place.

Japan, which is on several levels a key human rights actor in the region, undermines its own credibility by retaining the death penalty, an act that can not be reconciled with respect for human rights. “The death penalty is a legalized process that culminates in people being killed by the state. Hangings have no place in the 21st century” said Beger.

The EU should use the EU-Japan summit to press the Japanese government to take immediate steps to abolish the death penalty;
• by commuting all death penalty sentences and imposing a moratorium on pending executions;
• while taking these steps, ensure greater transparency around the application of the death penalty by making available all information regarding its use, in order to allow an informed public and parliamentary debate on this issue; and
• improving the prison conditions of death row prisoners by bringing the Prison Law and all other regulations at detention places into full accordance with international human rights standards.

For further comment/background and interviews:

     Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
     Tel: 32-2-5021499
     Fax: 32-2-5025686
     Email: [email protected]