JAPAN. MPS MOOT HALT TO EXECUTIONS
February 10, 2008: a cross-party group of Japanese legislators drafted a bill proposing a four-year moratorium on the death penalty. The bill, a step towards abolition, will shortly be submitted to parliament and introduces life imprisonment without parole as a substitute. But the initiative is likely to meet stiff opposition.
The way the death penalty is administered has been condemned both domestically and abroad: death row inmates are executed at short notice, to deter appeals. They are put to death by hanging, generally on a Friday and during parliamentary recess to avoid media exposure or public opposition. At the trial stage, defendants may not have easy access to a lawyer, and the prosecutorial system tends to value confessions above evidence.
Abolitionist parliamentarians appear to think the time is right for reform. But the current Justice Minister, Kunio Hatoyama, is a vocal supporter of capital punishment. He has signed off six executions since taking office last September. And surveys suggest a majority of Japanese want to retain the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes. (Sources: BBC, 10/02/2008)