Japan still has a long way to go

Tokyo

Although I am strongly against the retention of the death penalty in Japan — and thus favor its immediate abolition — I disagree with former Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura’s remarks that abolishing it would represent a step toward Japan’s becoming “a mature, democratic nation,” as he was quoted as saying in the July 31 Kyodo article, “Sugiura: End death penalty in name of democracy.”

Japan is neither a democratic nor a mature country, and abolishing the death penalty — although highly laudable — would not in any way improve its democracy or its maturity.

Democracy is simply defined as the governance of a country by the people, for the people and of the people. Can that be said of this country, controlled by an unelected bureaucracy and where a “free” press is in question? No!

The maturity of a nation is easily discernible by its domestic and international attitudes and actions. Does anyone really believe that Japan is mature domestically or internationally? It is not!

I believe Sugiura himself shows an alarming immaturity and naivete — even though I fully agree with his aims — in declaring that abolishing this harsh, cruel punishment will improve this country’s democracy.

The fact is that this country has a predilection for cruelty, not only in its history but also in its current attitude toward, and in its remedies for, the illegal parental abduction of a child to Japan, and in its total rejection of an honorable code of conduct for the judiciary and the executive as established in many “civilized” countries (such as the presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty and the application of the “Miranda rights” reading to suspects arrested in the United States, etc.).

Here in Japan, an individual can be imprisoned for a period of 23 days without charge or access to legal counsel. Is that “civilized”? Add this to the fact that the majority of “middle Japan” solidly supports the death penalty.

Sugiura, Hideo Hiraoka (another former justice minister) and the members of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations should not hold their breath. They should not expect Japan to follow the example of other countries that have either abolished or, at least, suspended the death penalty — the exception, of course, being the United States, where the death penalty still exists in many states and where there is extreme violence in the streets, schools, cinemas and such amid insanely lax gun control.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

paul gaysford