The execution of two death row inmates in Japan shows that a "chilling" escalation of death penalty use under the new Liberal Democratic government is intensifying, Amnesty International said.
Yoshihide Miyagi, 56, and Katsuji Hamasaki, 64, were hanged in Tokyo today. The two men were convicted of murder after shooting dead rival gang members in a restaurant in Ichihara City in 2005.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has now executed five people since taking office in December 2012. The other three executions took place in February.
“This chilling news appears to reinforce our fears that the new government is increasing the pace of executions at an alarming rate,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.
“With five executions already this year, it seems clear the government has no intention of heeding international calls to start a genuine and open public debate on the death penalty, including its abolition.”
Japan has executed 12 people since March 2012. No executions had been carried out during the previous 20 months.
Ten people were hanged in less than a year during Shinzo Abe’s previous time as Prime Minister between September 2006 and September 2007.
Current Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has publicly expressed his support for the death penalty, raising concerns that figure may be surpassed by the new government.
“We urge the government to immediately reverse this worrying trend and impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its eventual abolition,” said Catherine Baber.
The number of death row inmates, at 134, is at one of the highest levels in Japan in over half a century.
Prisoners are typically given a few hours’ notice before execution, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are typically notified about the execution only after it has taken place.
Amnesty International 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 by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.