asahi.com：Supreme Court: Life sentence too lenient – ENGLISH June 21, 2006Posted by fukumimi in crime, Japan, law.
It seems that Japanese courts and public opinion are going against an international trend towards the abolishment of the death penalty.
Whilst the brutal rape and murder of a young mother and the murder of her baby are inexcusable crimes, it is difficult to agree with the decision of the supreme court which is basically giving an order to the high court to deliver a death sentence.
The murder was a minor when he committed the crimes.
Even the US has abolished the death penalty for minors.
(There is a difference in that minors are defined as under 20 in Japan as opposed to under 18 in the US, and the international laws draw the line at 18, so Japan is not overstepping the line there, Japan is not a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty, but is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
If there are problems with the criminal law system (and I believe there are), they should be addressed.
Firstly, life imprisonment rarely means life. There have been high profile cases where lifers have gotten out within less than 10 years. Giving the courts the opportunity to pass sentences to exclude the opportunity for parole.
Secondly, regarding the laws regarding minors in general, if we are to believe that 18 and 19 year old should be held to the same standards as adults, they should also be given the same rights. If we are going to execute 18 year olds, there should be a discussion about lowering the age of majority. 18 and 19 year olds cannot legally smoke or drink alcohol, they cannot vote, yet they can be executed. Surely there is a major inconsistency here.
Addendum (added 6/22):
The title of the Asahi Shimbun piece is misleading. The legal term is 無期懲役 (muki choeki) which means indefinite term, and definitely does not mean "a sentence to spend the rest of your natural life in prison".
(Average term served is about 20 years, but significantly shorter terms have been highlighted by the press when they have come to light. There is a decrease in early releases, admittedly.)