Two inmates on death row are suing Japan’s government for the practice of informing prisoners of their execution hours just before the execution date, arguing that it causes psychological stress.
Japan is one of the few developed countries that still practice the capital sentence, with over 100 convicts awaiting execution. Executions generally occur after a significant time has passed since the sentencing and are always death by hanging.
And in Japan, authorities have informed death row inmates mere hours before execution for decades. The two detainees say that the existing method is “illegal” and that prisoners should receive an early warning/notice.
According to their lawyer, the action filed before the Osaka district court on Thursday also demands $193 000 in damages for the misery caused by living with uncertainty regarding their execution date.
Yutaka Ueda, who currently acts as a lawyer for the two inmates, told AFP, “This tramples on human dignity.”
He said that death row detainees are generally only told one to two hours before their execution and do not have time to consult with a lawyer or register a complaint.
They live in fear, thinking every morning, ‘Maybe today is the day’ when they hear the sound of guards’ shoes.
According to documents and press archives, Japan gave death row convicts a more ample warning, but this practice ceased around 1975. Two years ago, Japan gave death sentences to three inmates and 15 in 2018, of which 13 are responsible for sarin gas assault on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
Inmates, generally serial killers, are blindfolded and are brought to a location where their feet and wrists are chained and shackled before a trap-door opens beneath them. The system activates when authorities press a button in a room next door simultaneously, with no one knowing which control is “active.”
According to Ueda, Japan “does not reveal much information regarding capital punishment,” implying that little public debate exists.
Despite disapproval from human rights organizations, the opinion of public for capital punishment hasn’t bulged.