Death Row Inmates Sue Japanese Govt Over Same-Day Execution Notice

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  • Lawyer decries hours notification of prisoners as ‘extremely inhumane’

Two death row inmates in Japan are suing the government, claiming that the practice of not informing inmates of the time of their execution until only hours beforehand is “inhumane”.

Local media have reported that that the prisoners are demanding change and seeking compensation from the government.

Capital punishment in Japan is conducted by hanging, and the practice of notifying inmates just hours before the penalty is carried out has long been decried by international human rights organisations for the stress it places on prisoners.

In what is believed to be the first-ever legal test of the existing practice, two prisoners sentenced to death filed a suit in a district court in the western city of Osaka on Thursday, saying the practice was illegal because it did not allow prisoners time to file an objection.

Consequently, they are demanding the practice be changed and also asking for 22m yen ($194,000) in compensation, Kyodo news agency reported on Friday.

“Death row prisoners live in fear every morning that that day will be their last,” a lawyer for the plaintiffs was quoted by the agency as saying. “It is extremely inhumane.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyer said there was no law mandating that prisoners be informed of their execution-only on the day it is carried out and that the practice went against the criminal code, Kyodo reported.

Lawyers in charge of the case were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters and a spokesperson at the Justice Ministry declined to comment on the case, or on how the death penalty is carried out.

The death penalty is usually imposed in connection with murders in Japan, and capital punishment has extremely high public support. No executions were carried out in Japan in 2020 – the first year without an execution since 2011 – and none have yet taken place in 2021.

About 110 people are on death row in Japan, local media said, but the Justice Ministry was unable to immediately confirm the figures. – The Guardian reports

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