As a European, I am writing to apologize to the people of Japan for our arrogant and embarrassing habit of interfering in the internal affairs of your country.

Regarding the recent executions of the convicted perpetrators of the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subways, the European Union again issued a statement calling on Japan to abolish the death penalty. I find these unsolicited interventions inappropriate for at least three reasons.

First, Japan is a vibrant democracy, with a free and open political debate, and a highly educated and well-informed population. Japanese universities conduct leading criminological research in Japan and across Asia. The idea that the Japanese people and their elected representatives are unable to devise their criminal laws without “advice” from the EU seems preposterous.

Second, Japan has a well-functioning criminal justice system, and some of the lowest levels of violent crime in the world. Data shows that the Japanese people have an exceptionally high degree of confidence in their police, prosecution service and judiciary. Europeans should learn from Japan, not lecture it.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the government of Japan would never openly express its views on any internal policy of either the EU or its member states. Not that there is a shortage of human rights problems in Europe that could be commented on, but doing so would be considered improper and disrespectful.

Japan’s criminal justice system draws upon norms and values that have evolved over a very long time. We Europeans must learn to show respect for the fact that people of different cultures have different norms and values. Whether or not Japan should retain the death penalty is a debate for the Japanese people and not one in which foreign governments should get themselves involved.


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.

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