Statement by Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner on the executions carried out today in Japan

13.07.2017 - Press release

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (13 July) on the latest use of the death penalty in Japan:

I was shocked to hear that the death penalty has been carried out again in Japan. Two people were executed in Japan on 13 July, bringing the number of people executed in the country since December 2012 to nineteen.

The death penalty is an inhumane and cruel form of punishment. The German Government rejects the death penalty under all circumstances and will continue to work with its partners in the European Union to actively campaign for its worldwide abolition.

Germany and Japan are close partners and work together in a spirit of trust on many issues. I would therefore like to ask the Japanese Government to reconsider its current practice and to suspend further use of the death penalty. There is an open discussion in Japanese civil society on the abolition of the death penalty. I welcome this discussion, which forms a crucial basis for dialogue.

Background information:

Two individuals who had been sentenced to death were executed in Japan on 13 July 2017. One was a 61-year-old who was sentenced to death in June 2005 by the Supreme Court for murdering and robbing four people in 1991 and 1992; the other was a 34-year-old, who was sentenced to death for murder and robbery in 2011. The latter is the third case in which a death penalty handed down by a lay judge court has in fact been carried out.

A total of 19 people have now been executed since Prime Minister Shinzō Abe took office in December 2012. Those sentenced to death do not know about the imminent execution until immediately beforehand and thus have no opportunity to say farewell to their families, who are themselves only told about the execution after the event.

There are currently 124 prisoners on death row in Japan.

At its annual general meeting in October 2016, the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations clearly stated its opposition to the death penalty for the first time and called on the Government to introduce life sentences and to end capital punishment by 2020.

The number of countries that have abolished the death penalty or no longer carry it out is growing – 102 countries around the world, more than half of all countries in the world, have completely abolished it, while a total of 140 countries no longer carry out executions.

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