Three death row inmates were executed on Thursday in Japan, with Amnesty International calling the action “an ominous and regressive move”. The executions are the first since Shinzo Abe’s administration took office in December.
Masahiro Kanagawa, 29, was hanged at Tokyo Detention Centre on Thursday, along with Kaoru Kobayashi, 44, at Osaka Detention Centre and Keiki Kano, 62, at Nagoya Detention Centre. Kobayashi and Kano were executed despite both being in the process of preparing to apply for retrials.
“These executions, carried out under a shroud of secrecy, are a callous act of premeditated killing,” said Roseann Rife, Head of East Asia at Amnesty International, a non-governmental organisation focused on human rights with over 3 million supporters worldwide.
“The authorities appeared alarmingly merciless in their willingness to execute during Shinzo Abe’s previous stint as Prime Minister. The fear is that this marks the beginning of a new wave of cold-blooded killing by the State. It raises serious questions whether such executions are carried out purely for political expediency,” said Rife.
While Abe was Prime Minister during September 2006 and September 2007, ten people were hanged in Japan. It is the highest rate under any Liberal Democratic Party rule, according to Amnesty International, that is concerned the number may be surpassed due to current Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki who publicly expressed his support for the death penalty.
“Over two thirds of countries in the world no longer use capital punishment, disproving claims it is necessary. Japan is among an isolated minority on this issue and we urge Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki to take steps to initiate a public debate on the future use of the death penalty,” said Rife.
There are now 134 inmates on death row in Japan, one of the highest levels in decades, according to the NGO. Japanese prisoners are usually announced only a few hours before execution, while some do not receive any warning at all. Their families are typically notified about the execution only after it has taken place.