Japan carries out three executions, first since 2010
Mar 29, 2012, 5:57 GMT
Tokyo - Japan executed three prison inmates Thursday in what were the first executions in the country since 2010, Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa said.
The move was immediately condemned by Amnesty International.
'Today's hangings are a hugely retrograde step - they bring Japan back into the minority of countries which are still executing,' said Catherine Baber, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific spokeswoman.
The Justice Ministry identified the three as Tomoyuki Furusawa, Yasuaki Uwabe and Yasutoshi Matsuda. All three had been convicted of multiple murders.
The executions took place in jails in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.
Japan carried out executions every year from 1994 to 2010, when two prisoners were hanged in July under former justice minister Keiko Chiba, who had previously opposed capital punishment.
In a statement released in London, Amnesty called on Japan to join the more than two-thirds of countries worldwide who have abolished the death penalty in law or practice and declare a moratorium on executions as a first step toward abolition.
Earlier this week, Amnesty's annual report on the state of the death penalty worldwide noted as a 'positive development' that Japan had not carried out executions in nearly two years.
Ogawa told a news conference that he had ordered the executions, as it was a justice minister's 'duty stipulated by law.'
Amnesty International Japan said in a statement that, when the contents of the law are against international human rights standards, it is also a duty for a justice minister, Justice Ministry and the government to make efforts to revise the law.
Japan and the United States are among the few major industrial countries that still impose death sentences.
Kenji Utsunomiya, president of the Japan Federation of the Bar Association, condemned the executions as 'highly regrettable.'
'We protest strongly against the resumption of capital punishment,' he said in a statement.
Utsunomiya said the organization had submitted a request to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda late February, asking him to start a national debate on the abolition of the death penalty.
The 1995 poison-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, which killed 13 and made thousands ill, stopped a growing movement to abolish the death penalty, critics said.
Few people dared voice opposition to the death sentences handed down to the cult's members, including Shoko Asahara, the mastermind behind the attack.
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