(AFP) – Oct 31, 2008
GENEVA (AFP) — The UN Human Rights Committee on Friday called on Japan to abolish the death penalty, just days after the country executed two people taking the annual level of deaths to a 30-year high.
Japan "should favourably consider abolishing the death penalty and inform the public, as necessary, about the desirability of abolition," the committee said in a report.
The country, which has one of the world's lowest crime rates, is the only major industrial nation other than the United States to use the death penalty. Its use is widely supported among the Japanese public.
Tuesday's executions were the first since conservative Prime Minister Taro Aso took office last month, and brought to 15 the number of people executed this year, the highest total since 1975.
The UN rights committee made a similar call in its last review of Japan's record 10 years ago but to no avail.
It also on Friday expressed concern at the conditions in which prisoners on death row are held and urged a "more humane approach".
The committee said it was "concerned that death row prisoners were kept in solitary confinement, often for protracted periods, and were executed without prior notice before the day of execution".
Japan informs inmates of their impending executions only shortly before taking them to the gallows, as part of its effort to ward off last-minute appeals.
The country had a de facto moratorium on executions for 15 months until 2006 because the then justice minister, Seiken Sugiura, said the death penalty went against his Buddhist beliefs.
Aso, who took office on September 24, is a member of Japan's small Roman Catholic community. The Roman Catholic Church opposes capital punishment.
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