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Report: Japan May Reform Executions

November 4, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan may partially lift a veil of secrecy surrounding its capital punishment practices by confirming when executions have been carried out, the country’s largest newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Japanese Ministry of Justice has begun mulling a reversal of its longstanding policy of refusing to confirm whether or not a specific criminal on death row has been executed, the Yomiuri newspaper said in a front page article.

But a spokesman for the ministry denied the report, saying no decision has been made to reconsider its position on the issue.

The ministry says it does not respond to inquiries about executions out of respect to the survivors of crimes and the families of those put to death.

Citizen’s groups which oppose the death penalty have criticized this official secrecy, saying people have a right to know more about the government’s execution practices.

The Justice Ministry publishes an annual report which publicizes only the total number of death sentences carried out during the previous year.

The ministry said four people were executed last year. In June this year, Japanese media cited unnamed sources as saying three convicted murderers were hanged earlier that month.

Prisoners on Japan’s death row are believed to be held in solitary confinement for years, then told of their impending execution just hours beforehand. The lawyers and families of those executed are usually informed shortly afterward.

Fifty-four people have been sentenced to death and currently await execution in Japan, according to Amnesty International.

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