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Japan Executes Man who Killed Eight School Children
10/15/2004 10:20 AM

On September 14th, 2004 Japan executed forty year old Mamoru Takuma for the 2001 stabbing rampage at a school in western Japan that claimed the lives of 8 school children and injured 15 others.  Mamoru was hanged less than a year after his death sentence was finalized, a sentence that was carried out with unusual speed.  Human rights activists have expressed concern that the rights of the convicted are not being sufficiently protected - usually there is a gap of at least four years between sentencing and execution.

Japan's secretive system of capital punishment has long been criticized by human rights activists and international organizations.  Under the capital punishment system currently in place, inmates are arbitrarily selected from death row and they, their families, and their legal representatives are only notified of their pending executions on the day it is to take place. 

As a result of increasing international pressures, there was a recent symposium on capital punishment held October 8th, 2004 in Miyazaki, Japan.  The symposium was part of the annual human rights meeting of the Japan Federation of  Bar Associations, which is Japan's largest association of lawyers.  The Association criticized the secrecy and the due process defects inherent in the Japanese system and drafted a resolution calling for the Japanese government to abolish the out-dated system, or at least to introduce a four-year moratorium until the system can be revamped. 

The Japanese government has largely been unwilling to change its stance on the death penalty or even to provide a proper forum to address concerns relating to the system.  This policy could be on the way out as The Council of Europe is considering temporarily revoking Japan's observer status unless it suspends executions.  More importantly, Tokyo is now seeking a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, which will be difficult to attain if Japan continues to ignore the United Nation's concerns over its death penalty system.

Compiled from:  Khaleej Times Online, Japan Executes Man Who Killed 8 Schoolchildren 14 September 2004, Go Asia Pacific,  Japan Executes Man Who Killed Eight School Children, 14 September 2004, and Japan Economic Newswire, Japan Does Not Need Death Penalty in 21st Century, 8 October 2004.