Europe and Japan share “Reflections on life”


on 8 December 2009

“I will continue to do my best to abolish the death penalty, in line with the international trend”, Shizuka Kamei, (photo) Japan’s newly appointed postal and financial services minister said on December 2.
Kamei added his government, led by prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, would reverse the trend towards more executions established by its predecessor. However, he acknowledged that Japan was not ready for abolition and promised to work towards a moratorium on executions as a first step.
Kamei was speaking at the event “Reflections on Life: European and Asian Perspectives on Capital Punishment” organised by the Swedish presidency of the European Union at Tokyo’s Waseda University.

Politicians should take the lead

Ove Bring, professor emeritus at Sweden’s National Defence College and Stockholm University, exposed the European outlook on the death penalty. After giving an overview of the history of abolition in Europe since the 18th century, he explained that political leaders there had taken the lead and convinced public opinion that capital punishment was wrong.
“Politicians have probably felt that the issue was inappropriate for consideration by ‘the man in the street’, since citizens in general would be more emotional than rational in this matter,” he said. He stressed that the EU has asked Japanese leaders to take similar steps, even though a majority of the country’s population still supports the death penalty.
He also insisted in the risk of miscarriage of justice as a key argument to abolish the capital punishment.
In the panel discussion that followed, Maiko Tagusari, a representative for World Coalition member organisation Center for Prisoners’ Rights, insisted that capital punishment was not linked to Asian values. Instead, she accused the Japanese media of misinforming the public on the death penalty, arguing that properly informed citizens would stop supporting it.

Download Ove Bring’s speech

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