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Japan: Abhorrent executions crush hopes of progress under new prime minister

Three death row inmates – Yasutaka Fujishiro, Mitsunori Onogawa and Tomoaki Takanezawa – were hanged on Tuesday, the first executions in Japan since 2019.


Japan: Abhorrent executions crush hopes of progress under new prime minister
Representative Image, Credit-Tamara Gore

Japan is one of a handful of countries that has persistently executed in recent years. Amnesty International recorded 483 executions in 18 countries excluding China in 2020, the lowest number of executions recorded in at least a decade.



Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy, with prisoners typically given only a few hours’ notices and some given no warning at all before their death sentences are carried out. Their families are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.


Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Japan to establish an immediate official moratorium on all executions as a first step towards total abolition.


These are the first executions under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who came to power in October.


Yasutaka Fujishiro killed seven of his relatives in 2004, while Mitsunori Onogawa and Tomoaki Takanezawa were convicted of two murders in 2003.



Fujishiro suffered a personality disorder, but the court ruled that he could be held criminally responsible for his actions.


Onogawa had filed a second request for a retrial, a decision about which was still pending when he was executed.


Takanezawa had previously withdrawn an appeal to the high court filed by his lawyer. His lawyer requested the court to cancel the withdrawal, but his objection was rejected.


Japan’s most recent execution prior to today took place in December 2019, when a Chinese man convicted of four murders was hanged.


Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.



In response to the news that three people were hanged in Japan today, Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty Advisor at Amnesty International, said:

The recent appointment of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was a chance for progress on human rights in Japan. But today’s abhorrent resumption of executions is a damning indictment of this government’s lack of respect for the right to life.
After two years without executions, this feels like a missed opportunity for Japan to take long-overdue steps to abolish the cruel practice of the death penalty.
More than 100 countries worldwide have completely abolished the death penalty in law, and two-thirds in total have abandoned it in law or practice.
It is dismaying that Japan bucks this trend by continuing to use this cruel and inhuman punishment. It is high time to establish a moratorium on all executions as a first important step.

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