TOKYO -- There have been no executions of death row inmates in Japan throughout 2020, making it the first time in nine years where capital punishment was not carried out in the country.
This was confirmed on Dec. 28, as the penal detention facilities act stipulates that the death penalty is not to be administered between Dec. 29 and Jan. 3. According to the Ministry of Justice, there were 110 death row inmates as of Dec. 28.
Capital punishment has been carried out every year, excluding 2011, since its resumption in 1993, following a three-year, four-month hiatus. In 2011, the justice ministers either took a cautious stance toward carrying out death sentences or had a short tenure under the administration of the former Democratic Party of Japan. A total of nine justice ministers ordered the executions of a total of 46 individuals between 2012 and 2019. The year 2018 saw the largest number of prisoners put to death, at 15. They included the former AUM Shinrikyo cult leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto, and 12 other former senior members of the cult.
In 2020, Justice Minister Masako Mori, who stirred confusion during the regular Diet session following a Cabinet decision in January on extending the tenure of the superintending prosecutor at the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, did not order for capital punishment to be carried out. There have also been no death penalty executions under Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, who began her third term in September.
According to the justice ministry, the number of death row inmates as of Dec. 28 was 110, including Iwao Hakamada, 84, who was released from prison after a court granted him a retrial over a 1966 murder case in central Japan. The decision was later revoked by a high court, and his defense counsel appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which has sent back the case to the high court.
Compared to the end of 2019, the number of prisoners on death row has decreased by two. While death sentences were handed down to two new convicts in 2020, four death row inmates died in prison.
Death row inmate Satoshi Uematsu, 30, who was convicted over the murders of 19 residents of Tsukui Yamayuri En, a care facility for people with intellectual disabilities in the city of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, withdrew his lawyer's appeal voluntarily after being sentenced to death in March. In September this year, the Supreme Court dismissed the defendant's appeal over a case involving the murder and injury of three elderly residents of Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, finalizing the death sentence given to Kazuya Tsuchiya, 32.
Furthermore, Takahiro Shiraishi, 30, who was handed the death sentence on Dec. 15 over the murders of nine people at an apartment in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Zama, withdrew his appeal on Dec. 21, and his death sentence will be confirmed at 12:00 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2021.
(Japanese original by Takakazu Murakami, City News Department)