Japan death row prisoners sue government to stop hangings

November 29, 2022
Hanging is currently the sole means of execution under Japan's penal code
Hanging is currently the sole means of execution under Japan's penal code

TOKYO — Three death row prisoners in Japan are taking the government to court as they fight to end the practice of execution by hanging.

The inmates argue hanging — currently the only means of execution in the country — is inhumane.

They are also seeking 33 million yen ($238,000; £198,000) in compensation for psychological distress.

They say that living in fear of death for many years has led to "mental agony", according to Kyodo News.

The Justice Ministry has said it cannot comment on the complaint as it had not received it.

A lawyer for the prisoners, Kyoji Mizutani, says it's hoped the lawsuit will start a conversation about the future of capital punishment in Japan.

The lawsuit comes after two other inmates in Osaka took legal action against same-day executions late last year. .

Prisoners are currently notified only hours before they are to be executed, something the government has said is meant to keep them from suffering.

"Death row prisoners live in fear every morning that that day will be their last," said their lawyer, Yutaka Ueda, at the time.

Shortly after this legal action was taken, three people were hanged - the first executions in Japan after a hiatus of nearly two years. In July, a man convicted of killing seven people in 2008 was also executed.

Rights groups have long criticized the practice of hanging, saying it affects the mental health of prisoners, but the government has pointed to high levels of public support for capital punishment. An opinion poll of more than 1,500 people carried out by the Cabinet Office in late 2019 found that 80% of respondents supported the practice.

There are more than 100 people currently on death row in Japan. — BBC

November 29, 2022
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