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2010年8月29日 (日)

死刑刑場公開 まだ開示すべき情報は多い

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 29, 2010)
More death penalty info should be disclosed
死刑刑場公開 まだ開示すべき情報は多い(8月28日付・読売社説)

The execution chamber at the Tokyo Detention House was shown to the media for the first time Friday.

With the introduction of the lay judge system, ordinary citizens now have a chance of being called to participate in the process of sentencing someone to death. The Justice Ministry, which had been reluctant to disclose information related to executions, has likely realized the need to change its earlier stance.

The ministry should make further efforts to disclose information on the death penalty.

Media organizations were allowed to film or photograph certain areas, such as the room in which hangings take place, and the button control room, where prison officers push buttons to activate the trapdoor.

Debate requires data

Justice Minister Keiko Chiba this month set up a study panel within the ministry to discuss the death penalty system. Chiba, who had been calling for the abolition of capital punishment, expressed her intention to start discussions on whether the system should be maintained and stressed the need for national debate on the issue.

But the public in fact has been given little information that would help people think about the death penalty.

An execution must be carried out within six months after a death sentence is finalized, according to the Criminal Procedure Code. But this rule has not been followed. Over the past decade, the period from the finalization of a sentence to actual execution stood at five years and 11 months on average. Some death row inmates have been detained for more than two decades since their sentences were finalized. What has caused this situation?

In 1998, the Justice Ministry began to publicly announce when it had carried out executions and how many inmates were executed on each occasion. In 2007, it also began disclosing the names of the inmates who were executed. But it has not provided information on how decisions are made about which inmates are to be executed.

It also is hard to know anything about how death row inmates live in their cells and whether they regret what they have done.

The Penal Code stipulates that executions are to be carried out by hanging. But we wonder whether arguments on this point have ever been raised.

In the United Sates, where the death penalty exists in 35 of the 50 states, members of the media and relatives of crime victims can be present to watch executions. They also can be briefed by authorities about developments before actual executions.

We think the Justice Ministry should provide as much information as possible while giving consideration to the privacy of death row inmates and the wishes of victims.

Some in the ministry were cautious about releasing detailed information on the final moments death row inmates face, being concerned that discussions of how executions are carried out and how inmates are treated would eventually lead to arguments supporting the abolition of the death penalty.

It is necessary for the ministry to provide the public with information about the actual situation regarding the death penalty and to allow discussions as to whether practical details of the death penalty system, including the execution method, should be reviewed.

Seek the best system

An opinion survey conducted by the Cabinet Office showed that more than 80 percent of respondents were in favor of the death penalty. Many victims' relatives demand capital punishment as a penalty matching the seriousness of the crimes committed.

We do not advocate rushing discussions on whether the death penalty should be maintained or abolished. Rather, we hope that discussions are held from the viewpoint of improving the existing system's operation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2010)
(2010年8月28日01時13分  読売新聞)


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