The secrecy surrounding executions in Japan, including the opaque procedure leading up the decision on whom on death row to hang and when, is a problem that was once again highlighted in the July 6 execution of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara and six other former members of the cult convicted of a series of deadly crimes, including the 1995 sarin gassing on Tokyo subway trains. Whether or not people support the death penalty, they should be given enough information about the system and its implementation to make an informed judgment on the issue. More efforts are needed to promote transparency in Japan's death penalty system and executions.
The criticism voiced by the European Union and other parties over the hangings of the Aum cultists focused on the capital punishment system. According to Amnesty International, more than 140 countries around the world have either abolished the death penalty or effectively shelved it. Japan, the United States and South Korea are the sole OECD members that retain capital punishment, though South Korea has not executed anyone since 1997.
In a joint statement, the European Union Delegation to Japan, ambassadors of EU member states and Iceland, Norway and Switzerland said they "are strongly and unequivocally opposed to the use of capital punishment under all circumstances," noting that the death penalty "fails to act as a deterrent to crime." While condemning the crimes committed by the doomsday cult, Amnesty International said that "justice demands accountability but also respect for everyone's human rights" and that "the death penalty can never deliver this as it is the ultimate denial of human rights."