| 25 May 2024, Saturday |

Japan death row inmates sue over ‘inhumane’ same-day notification

Two death row inmates in Japan are suing the country over how they are only alerted hours before their execution, demanding changes and seeking compensation for the “inhumane” process, according to their lawyer.

In Japan, capital punishment is carried out by hanging, and the practice of not alerting detainees of the date until just before execution has long been criticized by international human rights organizations for putting undue stress on prisoners whose lives could be cut short at any moment.

Two prisoners sentenced to death filed a suit in a district court in the western city of Osaka on Thursday, in what is believed to be a first, claiming that the practice was illegal because it did not allow prisoners time to file an objection, demanding that the practice be changed, and asking for 22 million yen ($193,594) in compensation, according to lawyer Yutaka Ueda.

“Every morning, death row inmates dread that this will be their last day. It’s inhumane, to say the least “Added he.

“On this, Japan is firmly behind the international community.”

The United States and Japan are the only industrialized democracies that still carry out the death penalty, and human rights groups such as Amnesty International have demanded change for decades.

Ueda said there is no law mandating that prisoners can only be told of their execution hours before it takes place, and that the practice actually goes against Japan’s criminal code.

“The central government has said this is meant to keep prisoners from suffering before their execution, but that’s no explanation and a big problem, and we really need to see how they respond to the suit,” he added.

“Overseas, prisoners are given time to contemplate the end of their lives and mentally prepare. It’s as if Japan is trying as hard as possible not to let anybody know.”

There are currently 112 people sentenced to death in Japan, the Justice Ministry said, though none have been executed for nearly two years. Public opinion polls regularly show a vast majority of the population in favour of capital punishment, which is usually imposed in connection with murders.

Ueda said he hopes the lawsuit could spark discussion in Japan about the issue, though this is not its main goal.

“This system is badly mistaken – and we would like the public to turn their eyes to the issue,” he added.

  • Reuters