It counts 140 countries where death penalty is prohibited institutionally or practically (as of 2015), which occupy over 2/3 of nations in the world. However, in Japan it still remains as an institution. The Federation of Bar Associations of Japan adopted last month a ‘declaration to pursue abolition of death penalty’ in the meeting to advocate the human rights. The event was held in Fukui City in the western region of the Honshu Island.
SINCERE AND PROFOUND DISCUSSION IS NEEDED ON PENALTY SYSTEM
Social opinions in Japan divide over death penalty. The meeting was attended by 786 participants who argued harshly: approximately 10% of them opposed to abolition, 20% abstained and less than 70% of them supported to end capital punishment.
Nationwide Discussions is Absent
The Federation is composed of 37,000 members. Some people criticize that a limited number of participants in the meeting who favored the proposal represent the stance of the organization as a whole though the majority supported it. The Federation, however, had approved in the 2011 human rights meeting (held in Takamatsu City) a declaration to call for open discussions on the death penalty system on the broad social level. Then the association hosted a number of symposia across the country. It has issued protest statements authorized by President of the federation on the occasions of executions.
The declaration is formally called ‘Declaration to seek for Reforms of the Entire Penalty System including Abolition of the Death Penalty’. The lawyers’ organization has piled up debates to today. But, socially, open discussions are not enough among ordinary people.
The New Socialist Party (NSP) is in favor of abolition of capital punishment from a point of plausible false charge and from a fundamental policy that the state authority cannot rob a life of a person even though he/she has committed a felony. We, as the party, have not yet discussed deeper the entire penalty system. We want to begin discussions. Let’s read the declaration first, and then analyze and discuss the issue.
Abolition of the death penalty is a trend in the international community. Among the 34 OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) nations, solely three nations, namely, Japan, the United States and Republic of Korea (ROK), retain capital punishment. The ROK has suspended it on any person over 18 years, or practically, it has ended the punishment. As for the US, 18 out of the 50 states have abolished it and Governors have declared suspension in another three states. Reportedly, in 2015 death sentences were carried out in six states. In other words, only the state authority of Japan among the OECD members puts a person to death.
There are strong opinions in the Japanese society to favor the death penalty behind the fact. The Cabinet Office conducted an ‘investigation on the fundamental judicial system’ in 2014. In the survey 80.3% of respondents replied ‘death penalty is unavoidable’. The main reasons were: (1) a victim and his/her family cannot permit the offender, (2) a felony should be compensated with a life, and (3) if the offender lives on, he/she might repeat a similar crime.
Those who agreed to abolition occupied as low as 9.7%. The reasons were: (1) if a fatal mistake is made in the court, retrieval is impossible, (2) offenders should live on to compensate the guilt, and (3) no authority, even that of a state, can be allowed to kill a person.
The survey also asked about an introduction of life imprisonment. The result was that those who supported death penalty reduced to 51.5%, while who favored abolition increased to 37.7%. Therefore the Federation of Bar Associations of Japan proposes a scheme of life imprisonment as an alternative of capital punishment in the declaration. The document also specifies a new penalty system by which offenders could recuperate humanity and return to the free society to be well included.
November 8, 2016