The United States resumed executions last week after a brief moratorium, but several other nations that still carry out the death penalty have recently begun to question the practice.
Japanese radio listeners were surprised last week to hear a broadcast of a condemned man’s last words and the sound of his hanging.
The execution was recorded more than 50 years ago, and was used in a new documentary about the nation’s secretive death penalty practice.
Details of executions are rarely released to the public, and according to The Guardian, the condemned are not told the time of their execution until minutes before they are hanged.
The newspaper quoted filmmaker Tatsuya Mori as saying, “If the justice ministry masks the reality, then it is up to the media to expose it. There is great significance in letting the public know the truth.”
In Taiwan, a new justice minister nominee announced her opposition to the country’s death penalty.
“Life should not be taken away,” Wang Ching-feng said, according to the China Post. “I respect life. The removal of one life cannot restore a lost life.”
Amnesty International, which has long called for an end to the death penalty worldwide, singled out India in a recent report, finding the nation’s judicial system inadequate to the task.
The report found that the death penalty disproportionately falls on poor and illiterate defendants, according to India’s International Business Times.
“At the end of the day, life and death in India for the poorer convicts on death row is a like a lottery,” Amnesty International regional head Mukul Sharma said in the report.
In a separate study, the organization cited sources as saying that China executes as many as 22 prisoners a day, and pointed out that if true, this add up to 374 people put to death during China’s upcoming Summer Olympics.
“Broadcast of execution forces Japan to debate death penalty”
Guardian (UK), May 6, 2008
“Amnesty Intl reignites death penalty debate in India”
International Business Times (India), May 3, 2008
“Death Penalty: World trend down but secrecy surrounds China execution figures- new report”
Amnesty International UK, April 14, 2008
“Taiwan must not abolish its death penalty”
China Post, April 25, 2008