Friday, March 4, 2011

To Japan's Minister of Justice

Several organizations around the world have recently sent letters to Japan's newly appointed Minister of Justice regarding Japan's death penalty. Here is the letter that MVFHR sent:

Minister Satsuki Eda
Minister Seiji Maehara

On behalf of the international non-governmental organization Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, I am respectfully writing to urge the Japanese government to reconsider the use of the death penalty.

Members of our organization, who have lost beloved family members to murder or to state execution, visited Japan last June to deliver public presentations and meet with government officials, religious leaders, attorneys, and families of murder victims. From a range of different experiences and perspectives, each of our speakers explained how they had come to believe that the death penalty was not the way to honor the loss of their loved one.

All of our presentations were extremely well received, confirming for us that the time is right for a new examination of the issue of the death penalty in Japan. When our group addressed the Japan Federation of Bar Associations at Bengoshi Kaikan in Tokyo, attorneys who work on behalf of victims and attorneys who work on behalf of defendants came together for the first time in the Federation’s history. This event was broadcast live to bar associations throughout the country.

At a Tokyo press conference where our members spoke about their losses and their reasons for opposing the death penalty, Stefan Huber, head of the European Union’s delegation to Japan, offered these remarks:

“Many members of the public do not have access to a fully informed understanding of the complicated issues involved [with the death penalty]. This is probably one of the reasons why Japanese public opinion is still in favour of the death penalty and why studies show a high public support rate. …
“There is a widespread assumption, and not just in Japan, that victims’ families favour the death penalty. As today’s main speakers have previously stated, executions are presumed to meet survivors’ need for justice and closure and to oppose the death penalty is often seen as somehow being ‘anti-victim’. But this is not necessarily the case.”

Within the United States, there is a growing awareness that not all victims’ family members favour the death penalty. Victims’ families are leading the movement toward abolition of the death penalty in several states. Meanwhile, there is international movement away from the death penalty, as demonstrated by the United Nations General Assembly’s recent resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. More nations than ever before voted to support a moratorium, including Mongolia, a country that had previously voted against it.

As family members of murder victims and of people who have been executed, we urge Japan to join this growing group of nations and abolish the death penalty.


Renny Cushing
Executive Director

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