Important but overlooked news from around the world.
“At the end of the day, life and death in India for the poorer convicts on death row is a like a lottery.”
— Activist Mukul Sharma on what he says is a biased capital punishment policy in India (see “Crime & Punishment,” below).
*War & Peace*
Japan’s military dilemma
New execution inquiries
WAR & Peace
* Japan’s Military Dilemma
Japanese activists turned out in the thousands last week to oppose changes to the nation’s pacifist constitution.
At issue is the so-called Article 9, a charter which severely restricts the activity of the Japanese military, and which has been targeted for updating as the nation’s international role has changed in recent years.
According to the Associated Press, thousands of activists gathered outside of Tokyo last week for a peace conference centered around the issue.
A statement by the organizers of the event said, “We believe that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution constitutes a world-class model for peace and should be protected as a global treasure for future generations,” according to the Associated Press.
Imposed after Japan’s defeat in World War II, the charter states, “The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
Article 9 has kept Japan’s military role to a minimum in such conflicts as the Iraq war.
The Japanese navy assists U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf, and a small contingent of Japanese army troops is in Iraq on a humanitarian mission, with orders to fire only if fired upon.
They are the first Japanese troops to enter a combat zone since World War II, according to the BBC.
According to Canadian polling firm Angus Reid, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura has supported a larger role for the Japanese military, saying, “We must take part more actively in peacekeeping operations permissible under the current system.”
A 2006 poll found that 77 percent of the Japanese people oppose altering Article 9.
“Nobel Peace Prize winner hits moves to change Article 9”
Japan Times, May 5, 2008
“Thousands rally for Japan constitution”
Associated Press, May 4, 2008
“Constitution survey shows 77% oppose changing Article 9”
Japan Times, May 4, 2006, 2008
“Article 9 hailed on Constitution’s birthday”
Japan Times, May 4, 2008
“Japan Divided Over Constitutional Review”
Angus Reid Global Monitor (Canada), April 15, 2008
“Japan moves to loosen army’s role”
April 13, 2007, 2008
CRIME & PUNISHMENT
* New Execution Inquiries
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
Editor: Will Crain
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