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Explained: Why execution of Chinese man in Japan has thrown spotlight back on capital punishment

According to Amnesty International, at least 690 executions were carried out in 20 countries in 2018, which is a decrease of over 31 per cent compared to 2017.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 29, 2019 6:05:30 pm
japan death penalty, Death penalty in countries, Countries with death penalty, In Japan, capital punishment is applicable to murder and is carried out by hanging in the presence of a priest and prison officials.

On Thursday, Japan executed a Chinese man, Wei Wei, who was on death row for the slaying of a family of four. Wei murdered the four along with two accomplices in 2003 and is the first foreigner to be executed by Japan’s Ministry of Justice in over a decade.

In July last year, Japan executed the leader and six members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which carried out a gas attack using the toxic chemical compound called sarin on the Tokyo subway in 1995 killing 13 persons.

Death Penalty Laws in Japan

In Japan, capital punishment is applicable to murder and is carried out by hanging in the presence of a priest and prison officials. According to the International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR), Japan has had a long-held practice of the death penalty, except between 1989 and 1993 when no executions were authorised by the Minister of Justice.

Furthermore, according to Japan’s Code of Criminal Procedure, while the death penalty should be implemented within six months of the issuing of the sentence, it is not always the case according to Nippon. Between 2000 and 2018, the highest number of executions were carried out in 2008, when roughly 15 were hanged and the second highest in 2018, when between 12-15 executions were carried out. Up until 1998, the Ministry of Justice did not publicly announce when an execution was carried out. Following the directions of the Minister of Justice Nakamura Shōzaburō in 1998, it began to give out information about the number of executions. Since 2007, the ministry also has been releasing the names of those executed and the location where they were hanged.

Death penalty in other countries

The global trend has largely been to move away from executions and death sentences. According to Amnesty International, at least 690 executions were carried out in 20 countries in 2018, which is a decrease of over 31 per cent compared to 2017. The NGO maintains that the figures recorded in 2018 were the lowest in the past decade and that the most executions were carried out in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iraq.

As per Amnesty International, the methods used to execute people included beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. In 2018, while Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty, Gambia and Malaysia both declared an official moratorium on executions and in the US, the death penalty statute in the state of Washington was declared unconstitutional in October 2018. As of 2018, while over 106 countries abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, roughly 142 countries abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Furthermore, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) is of the view that the death penalty “contravenes the very notion of human dignity”.

“It denies dignity by refusing the possibility of rehabilitation. It is incompatible with the right to life and can, under certain circumstances, amount to torture, and indeed it often does,” it says.

Earlier this year, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres’, while addressing the seventh World Congress on the Death Penalty, said, “The death penalty has no place in the twenty-first century.”

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