New Group Formed to Discuss Death Penalty in Japan; Aim to Make Proposals to Govt in Autumn

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A sign for the Bar Association Building is seen in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

A new group consisting mainly of lawmakers, former top investigators and family members of crime victims has been formed to discuss the nation’s death penalty system.

The group intends to submit proposals to the government as early as this autumn with the aim of sparking a national debate.

While more than 80% of the people in Japan approve of the death penalty, there is an international trend toward its abolition. Under these circumstances, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), which serves as the group’s secretariat, called for the establishment of such a group to examine whether the death penalty should exist and how the system should be administered, aiming to stimulate discussion.

The new group has 16 members, including Masahito Kanetaka, a former commissioner general of the National Police Agency, Makoto Hayashi, a former prosecutor general, as well as Diet members from the ruling and opposition parties, families of crime victims and representatives of labor and management. The group plans to hold discussions with relevant people on a wide range of issues, including false convictions, wrongful rulings and the situation overseas, and discussions among members will be reflected into its proposals for the government.

“The issue of the death penalty covers a wide range of fields, such as law, philosophy, ethics, politics and culture,” Makoto Ida, the group’s chair who is also a professor at Chuo University, said at the group’s first meeting on Feb. 29. “We hope to provide insights and take the debate on the death penalty to the next level.”

Hayashi also said: “The death penalty is a matter of policy choice. I want to participate in the debate on whether it should be retained or reviewed.”

The JFBA adopted a declaration calling for the abolition of the death penalty in 2016 and proposed in 2022, the introduction of custodial sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as an alternative maximum punishment.