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Japan - Universal Periodic Review - Death Penalty - July 2022

Date: July 14, 2022
Document: Japan UPR death penalty (PDF 507.9 KB)
Country: Japan
Type: Intl Mechanism Submission
Issues: Death Penalty
Mechanism: Universal Periodic Review
Report Type: Stakeholder Report


1.     Since Japan's 2017 Universal Periodic Review, despite a brief respite from 2019 to 2021, Japan has continued to carry out executions and sentence people to death. Japan's Penal Code does not limit the death penalty to the most serious crimes. Defendants can be sentenced to death for nonlethal crimes and crimes in which they did not intend to kill.

2.     Moreover, people sentenced to death are not afforded procedural protections in line with international standards. Several defects in Japan's legal system increase the possibility of wrongful convictions and thus wrongful executions. Japan's pretrial detention and interrogation system results in the increased potential for false confessions, and Japan does not have either a unanimous verdict requirement or a mandatory appeal system.

3.     Japan's treatment of prisoners sentenced to death also violates international norms. People on death row face severe restrictions on their access to the outside world and they live in solitary confinement indefinitely. Their contact with supporters and even family members is highly restricted. Prison officials also regulate their correspondence with counsel and even redact letters between people sentenced to death and their attorneys.

4.     This report provides several suggested recommendations to address death penalty issues in Japan. First, Japan should abolish the death penalty and replace it with a fair and proportionate sentence in line with international human rights standards. Second, until complete abolition, Japan should limit the death penalty to lethal crimes in which the defendant had the intent to kill. Third, Japan should amend the Penal Code to: (a) allow defense counsel to participate in interrogations; and (b) introduce a mandatory appeal system for capital cases. Finally, Japan should amend its law on detention facilities and treatment of inmates to restrict the use of solitary confinement and to comply with the Nelson Mandela Rules.