Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler on the latest use of the death penalty in Japan

27.12.2019 - Press release

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (27 December 2019) on the latest use of the death penalty in Japan:

I was shocked to hear that the death penalty was carried out again in Japan on 26 December 2019. This brings the number of people who have been executed in Japan since December 2012 to 39.
The death penalty is an inhumane and cruel form of punishment, which the German Government rejects in all circumstances. Germany and its partners in the European Union are working to achieve the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. During its three-year membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council from 1 January 2020, Germany will redouble its endeavours in this field.
Germany and Japan are close partners and work together in a spirit of trust on many issues. I would therefore like to reiterate my request to the Japanese Government that it reconsider its current practice and 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: 

A person who had been sentenced to death was executed in Japan on 26 December 2019. The man executed was a 40-year-old Chinese national, who had been sentenced to death in 2003 for the robbery and murder of four people and had been on death row for 16 years. This was the first time in ten years that the death penalty was carried out against a non-Japanese national. According to Japanese news agencies, the man’s two accomplices were tried in China; one of them was also sentenced to death and executed in 2005. 

A total of 39 people have been executed since Prime Minister Shinzō Abe took office in December 2012, most recently in August 2019, when two people were executed. Those sentenced to death often spend decades on death row, are only informed about their impending execution immediately beforehand, and are not given the opportunity to say farewell to their families, who are only notified about the execution after the event. At present, 109 prisoners are on death row in Japan. 

However, the number of countries that have abolished the death penalty or no longer carry it out is growing around the world. Over 130 countries have abolished the death penalty or its use, while around 50 countries carry it out. Alongside the United States, Japan is the only country in the G7 that applies the death penalty. Belarus is the only country in Europe that uses it.


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