July 11 marked the 30th anniversary of the entry into force of a United Nations treaty to abolish the death penalty.
In the three decades since the entry into force of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on July 11, 1991, many countries have amended their laws to end the use of the death penalty. .
More than 70 percent of countries have legally or effectively abolished the death penalty, according to international human rights group Amnesty International.
Final decisions on matters concerning the judicial and criminal justice systems of each country should be dealt with through their national legal processes on the basis of their history and values.
But capital punishment, the state-sanctioned murder of a person as punishment for a crime, raises serious universal human rights issues that transcend national borders. Nothing excludes the possibility of unjustified executions.
Japan should not forget that it is among the declining ranks of countries that still use the death penalty. On the 30th anniversary of the treaty coming into force, Japan is expected to start taking steps to end its legal system’s reliance on the death penalty.
A significant movement on the issue has recently come from the United States.
On July 1, US Attorney General Merrick Garland imposed a moratorium on federal executions while the Justice Department continues its review of the death penalty.
US President Joe Biden pledged during his presidential campaign to support legislation to end the death penalty. Biden’s position on the issue contrasts sharply with that of his predecessor.
Former Donald Trump attorney general William Barr resumed federal executions last summer after a 17-year hiatus.
While the moratorium will only apply to executions for violating federal laws, nearly half of US states no longer apply the death penalty.
Japan and the United States are the only countries among industrial democracies that still retain the death penalty and carry out executions.
Because of this isolated partnership, any significant move by the United States on the issue has significant implications for Japan.
Japanese policymakers, especially political leaders, need to understand that Japan is at a major crossroads as it must choose between joining the growing list of countries that disavow the death penalty and remaining in the camp supporting the death penalty with countries like Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, China and North Korea.
The retention of the death penalty is also a diplomatic obstacle to Japan’s international criminal investigations and judicial cooperation with other countries.
Many foreign governments are reluctant to extradite criminal suspects to Japan because of its use of the death penalty. Japan has only concluded extradition treaties with the United States and South Korea.
But South Korea has not carried out any executions for more than two decades and is seen as a country that has banned the penalty in practice.
National security cooperation talks between Japan and Australia have been temporarily stalled due to Canberra’s mistrust of Tokyo’s refusal to end executions.
By defending Japan’s position that executions are an appropriate punishment, the Japanese government underlines strong public support for the death penalty.
But disclosure of information regarding the treatment and executions of death row inmates has been limited, hampering a full debate on the issue.
It is easy to imagine the deep anger and grief of the destitute families of the victims of heinous crimes. But their feelings towards criminals shouldn’t be casually used to endorse the execution as social revenge.
A series of measures have been taken to support victims of serious crimes and their families, including the creation of a program to provide them with money and the establishment of a system to enable them to participate in the justice process. criminal.
But there is still a long way to go and many problems remain to be solved.
It is essential to prevent victims of crime and their poor families from becoming socially isolated by further expanding financial and mental health support.
–L’Asahi Shimbun, July 14