2011 was the first year in the last 19 during which no death penalties were carried out in Japan. Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, issued the following statement today (11 January):
“I am glad that Japan did not execute anyone during 2011. This an encouraging sign! I hope that this year will be another in which no-one is put to death.
I would wish for Japanese society to engage in a capital-punishment debate which considers the fundamental values of the rule of law as well as the moral dimensions of the issue – and to decide to abolish the death penalty. There are in my view essential changes which need to be undertaken in terms of execution procedure and prison conditions. The condemned prisoners and their families must, for example, be informed of the date of execution in an appropriately timely manner. International bodies such as the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture have issued significant recommendations in this regard.The German Government’s stance is clear: the death penalty is a horrific and unjustifiable form of punishment. We are working to see it abolished worldwide.”
There are currently more than 120 prisoners on death row in Japanese jails; some have been there for over 30 years.