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Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Death penalty on books, should stay: justice chief
Newly appointed Justice Minister Makoto Taki said in a recent interview that he supports the death sentence because it's on the books for heinous crimes.
"I lean toward maintaining the death sentence because it already exists in the judicial system," Taki, who assumed his post June 4, told The Japan Times and other journalists in his office last Thursday.
"The fact that the judicial branch hands down death sentences should not be taken lightly," he said. "We should be cautious, as we should scrutinize individual cases."
He also said he does not plan to repeat what predecessor Keiko Chiba did in 2010 and give the media a glimpse of the gallows.
"Because the media got to see the death chamber under Chiba, I don't plan to do" likewise anytime soon, he said without elaborating.
He also said he will continue to study whether hanging is the appropriate method for executions.
On whether to add life in prison without parole as a punishment for serious crimes, he said the Democratic Party of Japan "has not really launched discussions because the issue of whether to keep or abolish the death sentence is the priority."
Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is not a current option. Life sentences can lead to parole if an inmate demonstrates good behavior.
Legal experts and activists argue that the gap between life with the possibility of parole and the death sentence is too wide.
Japan is one of 58 countries, including the U.S., China, India and Iran, where executions take place; 104 nations, including all of the European countries, Canada and Australia, either have abolished capital punishment or have kept the death sentence on the books but have not conducted executions for years, according to Amnesty International.
On whether to allow dual parental rights in divorces, Taki said he will handle the issue carefully and avoided clarifying his position.
Domestic law allows only one parent to have custody, and thus those who lose the right in custody battles find it extremely difficult to see their kids after a divorce.
"Opinions are split on the issues of medical treatment and schooling of children, so I want to handle it carefully," he said, referring to situations in which children may be required to change schools and sources of medical care if they go back and forth between parents.
The issue of single or dual parental rights is a hot-button issue because Japan is preparing to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction, which will basically make Japan promise the other participating countries that it will do its utmost to enable non-Japanese parents to see their half-Japanese children.
In 2004, Taki blamed foreign residents illegally staying in Japan for a rapid rise in crimes.
"The number of crimes have increased rapidly and more than doubled from 1973, when it was the lowest since World War II. Above all, crimes committed by foreign residents illegally staying in Japan are extraordinary in their frequency and brutality," Taki said on his website in 2004.
Asked about this statement, Taki said in the interview that such crimes have dropped to a third of the number in 2004 and thus he is no longer as concerned.
"Back then, the number of crimes had gone up suddenly, not just by foreigners but also by Japanese," he said.