First executions of death row inmates in Japan since 2019

Japan executed on Tuesday (December 21), for the first time in two years, three people sentenced to death, an official from the justice ministry told Agence France-Presse (AFP). He is a 65-year-old man convicted of the hammer-and-knife murder of seven members of his family and neighbors in 2004, and two men, 54 and 44, convicted of a double murder in 2003, she clarified.

The last execution in Japan dated back to December 2019, that of a Chinese convicted of the murders of four members of the same family in the southwest of the country in 2003. Japan had executed three convicts in 2019 and fifteen in 2018, including thirteen members of the Aum sect, involved in a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo metro in 1995.

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One hundred convicts await a possible execution

The Japanese population’s support for the death penalty remains strong despite criticism from abroad, in particular from human rights organizations.

“Whether or not to maintain the death penalty is a crucial question that concerns the foundations of the Japanese criminal justice system”, commented on Tuesday, Deputy Secretary General of the Government Seiji Kihara, during a press briefing. “As atrocious crimes continue to be committed, the death penalty must be imposed on those who have perpetrated acts of such gravity and atrocity as is inevitable”, he added.

Tuesday’s executions came days after a fire in a psychiatric clinic in West Osaka killed 25 people, in which police officers announced the name of a suspect while a criminal investigation has yet to be held. officially opened.

Japan currently has over 100 death row inmates, and there are usually long years between sentencing and execution by hanging, but detainees are usually notified only hours before execution.


In early November, two death row inmates launched legal action against the Japanese government, denouncing this practice as illegal, which they claim is a source of psychological problems. “It violates human dignity”their lawyer told AFP, explaining that executions were generally announced to convicts only one to two hours before, preventing them from seeing their lawyer or filing an appeal.

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Separately, in December 2020, the Japanese Supreme Court overturned a decision that blocked the request for a review of the trial of Iwao Hakamada, a man now aged 85 who is considered the oldest condemned to death in the world. Mr. Hakamada has spent more than four decades on death row after his death row in 1968 for the quadruple murder of his boss and three members of his family. This Japanese had confessed to the crime after weeks of interrogation in detention before retracting. He had been proclaiming his innocence ever since, but the conviction was confirmed in 1980.

When the death penalty is applied in Japan, the convicts, whose hands are handcuffed and blindfolded, are led above a trap door which opens under their feet, by means of a mechanism triggered by one of the three buttons attached to the wall of an adjoining room, pressed simultaneously by three guards who ignore which one is active.

The World with AFP

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First executions of death row inmates in Japan since 2019