Lawmakers slam Hatoyama over executions


Likening the execution process to a “conveyor belt,” a group of lawmakers opposed to the death penalty harshly criticized Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama on Tuesday for sending a record 13 death-row inmates to the gallows in the past nine months.

The lawmakers questioned the timing of the latest executions, noting they followed closely on the heels of the recent random killings on the streets of Tokyo by a deranged man. By including Tsutomu Miyazaki among the three executed, the Justice Ministry, they say, is signaling its intention to sway public sentiment toward the death penalty while the shock of the slayings is still fresh.

Arguing that the government’s taking of life does nothing to increase public safety, Shizuka Kamei of Kokumin Shinto (New People’s Party) and leader of the nonpartisan group, said the death penalty must be avoided regardless of the heinous nature of the crime.

“Do you think that by exercising its power to deprive people of life the state is bringing happiness to the public?” Kamei asked. “Unless the government values the lives of everyone, it cannot prevent heinous crimes from taking place because it is caught in a contradiction.”

Kamei added that in addition to revealing the names and details of the crimes committed by those executed, the Justice Ministry should also disclose how the death-row inmates spent their time behind bars.

Nobuto Hosaka of the Social Democratic Party was critical of the rise in executions less than a year ahead of the introduction of the lay judge system.