Front-row seat to an execution

Capital punishment in Japan it seems to be growing in popularity

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg/Getty

While the death penalty is considered archaic in many countries, in Japan it seems to be growing in popularity. Last week, a poll revealed that 75.9 per cent of the public supports capital punishment.

The poll comes on the heels of two executions in late July, the first time the death penalty was used since the Democratic Party assumed power in September 2009.

Surprisingly, the executions were authorized by Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, a lawyer and former member of the Japan Socialist Party. Chiba, 61, was known as an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, and when she was appointed minister it was understood that Japan was effectively suspending the death penalty following 15 executions in 2008, the most in 33 years. But Chiba became the first justice minister to personally watch a government execution, saying it was her responsibility to confirm that the sentences were “appropriately enforced.” Following the double hanging, she announced the government will launch a review of the death penalty and open up the death chambers to the media. Critics say her attempts to encourage debate on the issue are misguided.

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