Rights group slams Japan’s latest executions as ‘inhumane’ as two murderers are hanged

The deaths bring the total number since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012 to 19

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 10:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 10:35pm

Japan executed two convicted murderers on Thursday, the justice ministry said, ignoring calls from international rights groups to end capital punishment.

The hangings of Masakatsu Nishikawa and Koichi Sumida bring the total number of executions since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012 to 19.

Nishikawa, 61, was convicted of killing four women in western Japan in 1991, while Sumida, 34, was sentenced to death for killing a female colleague in 2011 and dismembering her body.

“Both are extremely cruel cases in which victims were deprived of their precious lives on truly selfish motives,” Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda said.

Calls to abolish death penalty grow louder in Japan

“I ordered the executions after careful consideration,” he added.

Amnesty International condemned Japan’s continued use of the death penalty and said it was a “wanton disregard for the right to life”.

“The death penalty never ­delivers justice, it is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment,” Hiroka Shoji, East Asia ­researcher for the group, said.

Nishikawa was hanged while seeking a retrial. Though not unprecedented, it is rare in Japan. Kaneda indicated it was wrong to believe that death row inmates could not be executed while their retrial pleas are pending.

“When a rejection is naturally expected, we cannot help avoiding carrying out [capital punishment],” Kaneda said, noting he was not commenting on either of Thursday’s cases.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Kaneda made the decision “appropriately under the provision of the law”.

The death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan despite protests from European governments and rights groups.

Opponents say Japan’s system is cruel because inmates can be on death row for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending execution a few hours ahead of time.

Out of 124 death-row inmates, 91 are seeking a retrial, according to Jiji Press.