Japan has year without executions

Its the first year in nearly two decades the country has not carried out a single death sentence.

Tokyo: Japan has not executed anyone so far
in 2011, the government said on Wednesday, setting it up to be the
first year in nearly two decades the country has not carried
out a single death sentence.

However, the number of inmates on death row stands at a
post-war high of 129 as a debate on the rights and wrongs of
capital punishment continues.

In a legal quirk, executions -- always carried out by
hanging in Japan -- are banned over the New Year period, with
a moratorium between December 29 and January 3 as well as on
weekends and public holidays.

A justice ministry spokesman confirmed today that there
had been no execution in the year 2011 until December 27. "We
have not been informed of any execution so far during this day
(Dec 28)."

Justice Minister Hideo Hiraoka has not signaled his
intention to order the execution of any inmate in the year`s
remaining days, the major daily Asahi Shimbun reported.

"I don`t think it has a great significance in itself,"
Hiraoka told a news conference yesterday when asked about the
possibility of a year without executions.

The ministry spokesman said the number of death-row
inmates rose from 111 at the end of 2010 to 129 as of

The last execution in Japan was in July 2010 when then
justice minister Keiko Chiba, a former socialist and lawyer,
approved the hanging of two inmates, despite her long-time
opposition to the death penalty.

In an unusual move, Chiba attended the executions and
later allowed the media to visit the execution chamber at the
Tokyo Detention House in a bid to increase public debate over
the death penalty.

Apart from the United States, Japan is the only major
industrialised democracy to carry out capital punishment, a
practice that has earned Tokyo repeat protests from European
governments and human rights groups.

Since the end of World War II, only five years have been
free of executions: 1964, 1968 and three consecutive years
from 1990.


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