Japanese bar associations call for abolition of death penalty

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Graphic: amnestyusa.org

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia-Pacific Network (Adpan) is pleased that members of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers and hundreds of other legal professionals, would be voting for the abolition of the death penalty at their Annual General Meeting, scheduled for 7 October 2016 (The Japan Times and The Guardian, 21 September 2016).

We hope that this resolution and/or declaration will be approved with an overwhelming majority, if not unanimously. (In the event, a statement against the death penalty was adopted after a debate.)

The Malaysian Bar, whose membership now is about 17,000 practising lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia, adopted a resolution in March 2006 at its annual general meeting calling for the abolition of the death penalty and for a moratorium on execution pending abolition.

Since then, resolutions for the abolition of the death penalty have been tabled and adopted by the Malaysian Bar over the years re-affirming its membership’s commitment towards the abolition of the death penalty.

A resolution of bar associations, adopted by its membership, is a very powerful statement which demonstrates clearly that it is not just the bar, but that its members too are also clearly for the abolition of the death penalty.

This JFBA resolution and/or declaration of members will be a strong statement to the Japanese government, now led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose administration has sadly executed about 16 persons since 2012. There are presently about 124 inmates on death row in Japan.

The risk of miscarriage of justice and innocent people being executed became a major concern since 2014 after Iwao Hakamada was released having spent more than 45 years on death row. He had been sentenced to hang in 1968 for the murders two years earlier of a company president, his wife and their two children.

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The presiding judge, Hiroaki Murayama, when releasing Hakamada in 2014 also had this to say, “There is a possibility that [key pieces of] evidence have been fabricated by investigative bodies.”

Adpan calls on the Japanese government to heed the call of JFBA and its members and abolish the death penalty.

Adpan also hopes that bar associations, civil society organisations, political parties, trade unions and groups in Asia-Pacific nation states will also pass similar resolutions at general meetings calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

Charles Hector and Fifa Rahman issued this statement on behalf of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan), a regional network of organisations and individual members committed to working for the abolition of the death penalty in Asia-Pacific.

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