The Corner

Executions in Japan

Japan has executed two criminals. These are the first executions under the DPJ government (sort of somewhat kind of you-might-say left-of-center social-democratic, except when not) that came to power in last year’s sensational election, replacing the in-power-for-ever LDP (kind of sort of somewhat you-might-say right-of-center status-quo, except when not).

The executions confounded expectations of the new Justice Minister, who is a well-known abolitionist. She is not thrilled about having authorized the executions, so far as one can tell through the fog of ambiguity that is normal Japanese-politician-speak.

“It made me again think deeply about the death penalty, and I once again strongly felt that there is a need for a fundamental discussion about the death penalty,” she said.

By Jap-pol-speak standards, “strongly felt that there is a need for a fundamental discussion” is mouth-frothing vituperation. If Ms. Chiba is thinking of abolition, though, she has an uphill fight: Support for the death penalty among the Japanese public is overwhelming, and the issue is anyway far out on the fringe of public consciousness because of the very low levels of violent crime in Japan.

Executions in Japan are by hanging: The Japanese at least understand that capital punishment is an act of state violence, not a medical procedure, as in the dishonest and despicable system of “lethal injection.”

The condemned prisoner also does not know the day of his execution. This is the same as the old French system, if I recall my Camus correctly. Amnesty International says this is cruel, but I’m not sure I agree.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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