Three Executions in Japan Today (Feb. 21, 2013)

Three executions were carried out today in Japan. These were the first executions since Shinzo Abe (Liberal Democratic Party) became the Prime Minister in December 2012.

The three men executed today were Masahiro Kanagawa (at the Tokyo Detention Center), Keiki Kano (Nagoya Detention Center), and Kaoru Kobayashi (Osaka Detention Center). Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, who has the ultimate power to order execution of death row inmates, did not comment when and why these three were chosen.

One of the three men, Kobayashi, was convicted of kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old girl in 2004. After he was sentenced to death by the Nara District Court, he withdrew his appeal, saying that he did not want to live anymore. However, he filed a motion for a retrial in 2008 (the motion was rejected by the Nara District Court).  Shinichi Ishizuka, who was Kobayashi’s attorney, commented: “Kobayashi was frustrated that he could not appropriately raise the fact that he did not act with the intent to kill the victim at the trial. We were preparing to file for a retrial again. We regret the fact that he was executed before he could have his day in court” (this paragraph is from the Mainichi (in Japanese)).

Justice Minister Tanigaki told the press that if there are problems within the current system of capital punishment, they should be fixed. However, he also commented that he does not think an overall reform is needed. Tanigaki did not witness the executions today, since it is very uncommon for a Justice Minister to do so.

As of December 2012, there were 133 inmates on death row, a record-high number.

Read more about today’s news in English here (the Mainichi), and here (the Japan Times).

Numerous organizations immediately issued statements criticizing today’s executions: Japan Federation of Bar Associations,  Amnesty International, and Center for Prisoners’ Rights (all in Japanese).

Read more about the death penalty on this blog (ex. here, here, here and here).

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