Death penalty foes hit Hatoyama over accountability snub

by Jun Hongo

Opponents to capital punishment took issue Wednesday with Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama’s recent remarks suggesting a system should be established whereby he did not personally have to sign execution orders, saying he was trying to dodge accountability and also lacked regard for human rights.

Hatoyama said during a news conference last month that the Criminal Procedure Law, which requires the justice minister to sign and issue final execution orders, delegates this excessive burden onto his position. He then proposed creating an “automatic and objective” process to execute death-row inmates that wouldn’t require the minister’s involvement.

“Hatoyama’s remarks are a rejection of his responsibility as a minister. He is asking that he be pardoned from any accountability,” Makoto Teranaka, secretary general of Amnesty International Japan, said during a news conference at the Tokyo District Court, demanding the minister’s ouster.

“Not only is this unacceptable, it is blasphemy,” he told reporters.

Speaking on the fifth annual World Day Against the Death Penalty, Teranaka also noted Japan was one of the only 25 countries that resorted to the death penalty in 2006, while 133 countries have abolished capital punishment.

“The justice minister’s remarks only verify that capital punishment is too thorny an issue to continue,” He said. But Hatoyama remains a staunch supporter of capital punishment as a deterrent against heinous crimes.