Ja­panese lawyers seek end to death penalty

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Ja­pan’s big­gest lawyers’ group yes­ter­day called for the abo­li­tion of the death penalty, a con­tro­ver­sial move in coun­try where a large ma­jor­ity of the pub­lic sup­ports ex­e­cut­ing crim­i­nals con­victed of the most se­ri­ous of­fences. Hu­man rights ad­vo­cates have long de­nounced Ja­pan’s cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment sys­tem, un­der which pris­on­ers are told with­out warn­ing they will be hanged within hours, but there has been lit­tle mo­men­tum for change.

Some 80 per­cent of the pub­lic and the core of Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s rul­ing party fa­vor cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. Ja­pan and the United States are the only two mem­bers of the Group of Seven ad­vanced economies to prac­tice it. The Ja­pan Fed­er­a­tion of Bar As­so­ci­a­tions is­sued a dec­la­ra­tion call­ing for the abol­ish­ment of the death penalty by 2020, cit­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of wrong­ful con­vic­tions and in­ter­na­tional trends against cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. It also said there was lit­tle ev­i­dence that it de­terred crime.

“There’s a se­ri­ous risk of false charges un­der Ja­pan’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, which has fa­tal flaws in the dis­clo­sure of ev­i­dence and long pe­ri­ods of de­tain­ment and in­ter­ro­ga­tion,” the state­ment said. The death penalty is cur­rently used for crimes in­clud­ing mur­der, coups and ar­son or rape that causes death. The move by the lawyers’ group was ex­pected to be op­posed by a po­lit­i­cally vo­cal vic­tims’ rights group, which has con­sis­tently urged that the death penalty be main­tained.

“When a life is taken by crime, that life will never re­turn,” the group said on its home­page. “For the dead per­son’s loved ones to want heavy pun­ish­ment is only nat­u­ral.” The dan­ger, said Shizuka Kamei, a for­mer Cab­i­net mem­ber who was a po­lice of­fi­cial for decades be­fore en­ter­ing pol­i­tics, was that an in­no­cent per­son may end up con­demned. “De­priv­ing an in­no­cent, de­fence­less per­son of their life is a heinous killing on the part of the na­tion,” Kamei, head of an anti-death penalty law­mak­ers group, said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence on Thurs­day. — Reuters

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