AWAITING DEATH'S FOOTSTEPS
From the Los Angeles Times
On Japan's death row, prisoners never know when the hangman will come. Harsh conditions aim to calm, but critics call them inhuman.
By Bruce Wallace Times Staff Writer March 2, 2006
NAGOYA, Japan — Like all prisoners on Japan's death row, Masao Akahori knew that his execution would come without warning. The fear made him stiffen at the sound of the guards' approaching footsteps, wondering if the clack of boots was a countdown to death or would pass by, fading into the silence of another reprieve.
One morning in the early 1970s, the march stopped outside Akahori's cell and a key turned the lock.
"We have come to fetch you," the guards told him.
Akahori remembers his legs collapsing under him, that five guards had to drag him from his cell. He remembers the nervous whispering when the guards suddenly realized they had come to hang the wrong man.
It was Yamamoto they wanted. In the next cell.
"They put me back, no apology, and went for Yamamoto," Akahori recalls. He is 75 now, with watery eyes, a ghost of the 24-year-old who was living under bridges in 1954 when he says police beat a false confession out of him that he had raped and murdered a schoolgirl. "They closed the small window in my cell so I couldn't see what was going on with Yamamoto.
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Vol. 35. No. 07
AI Index: NWS 21/007/2005
JAPAN'S "COMFORT WOMEN" DEMAND PUBLIC APOLOGY
'Now you want a witness to my rape? I am a witness. I am my own witness. I was the one raped. I was the one ruined.' Lola Julia Porras, held captive in a tunnel in the Philippines and raped by occupying Japanese forces in 1942 when she was 13 years old.
As 15 August -- the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII in the Pacific -- draws near, hundreds of thousands of so-called "comfort women" are stepping up their demands for compensation and an apology from the Japanese government. So far, their appeals have fallen largely on deaf ears.
A sterile euphemism, the term "comfort women" belies the brutal humiliation suffered by women condemned to sexual slavery by their Japanese captors from the 1930s to the end of WWII. "I was taken to China when I was 16 years old and was there for 56 years," says Lee Ok-sun of Korea, aged 79. She was abducted and taken to Yanbian, northeastern China, where she was forced into sexual slavery in a "comfort station".
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|August 01, 2005
The Death Penalty In Japan
A little known fact about Japan is that it carries out the death penalty. Executions in Japan are by hanging and are carried out in secret. Prisoners face the fear of execution every day. They are only informed of their execution a few hours before the sentence is carried out. Prisoners are held in solitary confinement and have very limited access to the outside world, as a result many inmates develop mental disorders. Families of prisoners are informed of their loved ones’ execution only after it has taken place.
AI has received reports that at least eight of the 61 current death row inmates in Japan may be innocent. Forced confessions extracted through torture during pre-trial detention, prosecutorial misconduct and cases of mistaken evidence and identification mean that death-row inmates can be wrongly convicted.
Hakamada Iwao (m), (aged 68), claims that he was beaten and forced to confess to murdering four people. Hakamada has consistently maintained that during interrogation he was denied food and water; refused access to a toilet; was kicked and punched; his arms and ears were twisted, he was dragged by the hair; subjected to sleep deprivation and denied access to medicine and medical treatment. Hakamada suffers from severe mental illness after spending over 38 years in detention. He is unable to recognize his sister or to understand that he is on death row. His application for a re-trial was rejected this year, despite high expectation that his innocence would be revealed at re-trial.
“I could do nothing but crouch down on the floor trying to keep from defecating. At that moment one of the interrogators put my thumb onto an inkpad, drew it to a written confession record and ordered me, write your name here!, shouting at me, kicking me and wrenching my arm.” Hakamada Iwao, death-row inmate, taken from a letter to his sister.
The global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty now makes Japan one of only two “Group of Eight” major industrialised countries to retain this inhuman and degrading punishment (the other is the USA). Japan has been heavily criticised for imposing the death penalty by the Council of Europe, where Japan has Observer Status. By imposing the death penalty, particularly due to the way it is imposed and carried out in Japan, Japan has violated international treaties to which it is state party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
DEATH PENALTY DOES NOT EQUAL ATONEMENT
22 June 2005
Already, 3 years have passed since Toshihiko Hasegawa was executed for killing my younger brother for insurance money in 1983. Although the murder took place more than 20 years ago, it continues to haunt me.
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KILLING IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT THE SURVIVORS WANT
May 31 2005
BAR ASSOCIATION GROUP COMPILES BILL TO SUSPEND EXECUTIONS
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations proposed Saturday to suspend executions while the Diet discusses whether Japan should maintain capital punishment.
The largest lawyers' group in Japan urged the Diet to set up study panels on death penalty at both upper and lower houses to research the international trend over capital punishment or the possibility of another punishment to replace the death penalty. Under the bill, the government is required to disclose information about the death penalty so the panels will be able to conduct full research.
(source: Kyodo News)
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004 Released by the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 28, 2005
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE REPORT
This is a comprehensive report on all the main aspects of human rights in Japan, although there is scant mention of executions, since these are an approved US practice.
All the same it is a worthwhile document.
The secret execution in Japan of a 42 year-old prisoner, who was reportedly suffering from a mental health condition, is an affront to the dignity of the human being, Amnesty International said.
AI Index: ASA 22/003/2003
17 June 2002
ALBERTO FUJIMORI must be brought to justice.
The Japanese authorities must cooperate in ensuring that justice is done for the gross human rights violations - including crimes against humanity - committed during Alberto Fujimori's presidency.