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Japan: New Justice Minister wants “automatic” executions

New Justice Minister Hatoyama Kunio, upon taking office on September 25 (actually at his outgoing press conference, before he was reappointed to the position), stated that he supported creating a “conveyor belt” process for executions, so that the justice minister (meaning himself) wouldn’t have to sign death warrants.

In view of the already problematic nature of the Japanese death penalty process, as described here before, this is an alarming prospect.

The Japanese blogosphere was understandably divided on the issue. Conservative bloggers tended to applaud the statement. For example, Chimata no Wadai stated:

鳩山法相は『法務大臣に責任をおっかぶせるような形ではなく、半年以内に死刑執行されなければならないと自動的に進むような方法がないのかなと思う』と発言した。吾輩は双手を挙げて大賛成である。やっとまともな発言をする法務大臣が現れて嬉しい。死刑の判決が出されても法務大臣が署名しなければ死刑の執行ができないということは司法の独立を阻むものではないか。

Justice Minister Hatoyama said that “There should be a way for executions to be carried out automatically within a period of six months from the judgment, without having to rely on the authority of the Minister of Justice.” I raise my hand in full agreement. Finally, we have a Justice Minister who talks reasonably. The judiciary cannot be called independent if the carrying out of the death penalty depends on the signature of the Minister of Justice.

Blogger Otama obasan de mo wakaru, who does not seem to be personally against the death penalty, finds Hatoyama’s position irresponsible.

と語ったそうですね、鳩山さん。こういう司法や憲法をわからない人がなんで法相やってるのでしょうか?過去サインをしなかった法相がみな、単に、はんこをつくのが嫌だったと本気で思っているのかな?

Hatoyama makes his proposal. But it seems like a proposal by somebody who doesn’t understand the Constitution. Does he think that the Justice Ministers in the past who refused to sign warrants did so simply because they didn’t want to give their stamp?

From a more liberal perspective, blogger Big Bang makes a good point about Hatoyama’s responsibilities.

ところが、彼がここで言っているのは死刑執行廃止論ではない。死刑執行の最後のボタンを自分が押すのは嫌だと言っているのであり、またその行為を最 後の一人に委託するのは酷だと言っているようだ。では、一体誰が一人の人間の命を奪うことの最終責任をとるのか。それを乱数表に委ねるというのは悪質な責 任放棄であろう。そもそも鳩山氏に誰かがその役割を強制したわけではない。その役務がつらいというなら、彼は法相を引き受けるべきではないし、その自由がある。

However, Hatoyama is not calling for the abolition of the death penalty. He’s just saying that he doesn’t like to have to be the one to push the button for the execution, and that it’s painful to have the responsibility put on one person. If so, then who is supposed to take final responsibility for taking the life of a person? It would be a malicious refusal of responsibility to use a conveyor belt approach. And if you think of it, nobody forced Hatoyama to take this position. If the position is too painful, he shouldn’t have accepted the position.

Finally, the blog Bogus News carried an interesting but implausible story, that Hatoyama was planning to develop an execution robot, sort of like Robocop.

全自動死刑執行ロボは、法務相の署名が必要なことから執行の滞りが問題となっている死刑を自動的に行うべく開発された。スイッチオンで自律的な判断に基づいて捜査を開始。

The fully automatic execution robot is developed to automatically carry out executions, without the signature of the Justice Minister, which has become a problem. It begins its investigations automatically, when the switch is turned on.

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