• Kyodo

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Amnesty International on Tuesday criticized Japan’s continued use of the death penalty and the system that surrounds it.

In its annual report, the human rights group highlighted the secret September hanging of former police officer Susumu Kitagawa, who was sentenced to death in 1994 for the murder of two women.

Japan “aggravates” the suffering of those on death row by the “sudden announcement of executions,” Amnesty said, noting this deprives the prisoner of an opportunity to say a final goodbye to family and friends.

Amnesty welcomed the new Penal Facilities and Treatment of Prisoners Law, which provides for monitors to inspect prisons, but added this does not cover conditions in pretrial detention or on death row.

On refugees, Amnesty said conditions in Japan’s immigration centers remain “harsh with inadequate medical care.”

It highlighted the case of Ahmet Kazankiran and his son, who were recognized as refugees by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in October 2004 but forcibly repatriated to Turkey in January. This was “in contravention of Japan’s obligations under international law and in spite of appeals from the UNHCR and human rights groups,” it said.

Amnesty also voiced concern about the way in which Japan and other Asia-Pacific nations deal with economic migrants.

“Migrant workers and their families faced uncertainty, vulnerability and poor treatment in many countries, including Japan,” it said.

Once again in its annual report, Amnesty highlighted the failure of victims of Japan’s wartime system of sexual slavery to get redress in the courts. The group said ongoing cases “demonstrated the low priority of delivering redress to women victims of violence.”

It also noted the “restrictions on freedom of expression” imposed by the Tokyo High Court. The court reinstated trespassing convictions against three people detained in 2004 for distributing pamphlets against Japan’s involvement in Iraq in a military housing compound.