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

19.12.2017 - Press release

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (19 December) on the latest use of the death penalty in Japan:

I was shocked to hear that the death penalty has again been carried out in Japan. On 19 December 2017, two people were executed in Japan, one of whom was still a minor under Japanese law at the time of the crime. This brings the number of people executed in the country since December 2012 to 21.

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. The execution of individuals who were minors at the time of the crime is a breach of international human rights standards.

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 19 December 2017. One was 44 years old and the other 69 years old; both men were sentenced to death for multiple murders. Both convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court. The 44 year old was 19 at the time of the crime and was thus a minor under Japanese law. Following a case in 1997, this is the second time that an individual sentenced to death and executed was still a minor at the time of the crime. 
A total of 21 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 122 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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