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CRITICS SEEK "TRASPARENCY" IN JAPAN'S DEATH PENALTY SYSTEM

By Marx Coronel TOKYO, Jan. 26, Kyodo - A Japanese lawmaker and a visiting Italian campaigner against capital punishment called Friday for ''more transparency'' in Japan's death penalty system. Nobuto Hosaka from the opposition Social Democratic Party and Emma Bonino said Japan needs to disclose more information and to conduct public and parliamentary debates on the issue. Hosaka and Bonino called for all Justice Ministry decisions on the carrying out of death sentences to be made public and for relatives and lawyers to be informed days before an execution. ''When there is no public debate and transparency is zero, more and more you will lack public opinion (against) death penalty,'' Bonino told a new conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo. Executions, said to be done by hanging, are usually carried out unannounced in Japan, often in times when they are least likely to attract publicity. The Justice Ministry does not even disclose the names of those it executes. Aside from the secrecy of executions, death row inmates themselves are liable to be executed at any time, whenever the justice minister signs the order, Hosaka and Bonino said. On a visit to a death row prison in Tokyo the same day, Hosaka said the chief warden told him and Bonino that executions are conducted within five days of the justice minister's order. Hosaka added that the warden said executions are held by noon on an appointed day and inmates are usually informed only hours before they are put to death. Not only do inmates not know when they will be executed, but they are also confined in small solitary cells and prevented from communal activities, as well as having visits limited to families and lawyers, Hosaka and Bonino said. ''(The Japan Parliamentary League Against the Death Penalty) are discussing...to submit to the Diet for the first time in 50 years...a bill advocating the abolishment of the death penalty before the current Diet session ends,'' said Hosaka, who is the secretary general of the inter-party group of 98 lawmakers. Hosoka said requests to meet one of the 28 death row inmates at the prison and to inspect its execution site were refused by a top-ranking Justice Ministry bureaucrat on Friday morning. Hosaka said Keiichi Tadaki failed to give any concrete reason for the refusal and instead instructed the two to go and see the premises of the detention house in Adachi Ward and talk to officials there. At the detention house, the same requests were turned down by the chief warden, who said a meeting with Bonino and Hosaka could ''disturb the peace of mind'' of the death row inmates. Bonino and Hosaka were instead shown an empty cell for death row inmates. Bonino, a former European Union commissioner on human rights, is in Tokyo to promote abolition of the death penalty, the core mission of ''Hands Off Cain,'' an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) composed of civilians and lawmakers founded in 1993. Bonino said the Brussels-based NGO is working for the United Nations to adopt a moratorium on executions by next year to help countries using capital punishment to revise their stand on the death penalty and to raise public awareness on the issue. Currently 128 countries have abolished the capital punishment but 69 countries, including the United States and Japan, still conduct executions, she said.





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