Today is the European and World Day against the Death Penalty. This has been marked in Europe by a Joint Declaration by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Ambassadors to Japan of the European Union, its Member States, and Norway commend the Declaration and have agreed the following statement:
The EU enjoys excellent relations with Japan, which is a close and respected democratic partner. Close-knitted cooperation on a wide range of human rights concerns around the world is a cornerstone of this partnership. As a part of this relationship, the EU holds in very high regard the mutual dialogue on human rights issues in our own democratic societies.
On this European and World Day against the Death Penalty, we in the European Union reiterate our strong and absolute opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances. Each of our 28 Member States has abolished the death penalty, whilst abolition is also a pre-condition for the entry of new countries into the Union. We believe that the death penalty is cruel, inhuman and has not been shown in any way to act as a deterrent to crime. Furthermore, any errors, which are possible in any legal system, are irreversible. Abolition of the death penalty is at the core of the European Union’s human rights framework. It is also a key objective of the EU’s human rights policy. We regard abolition of the death penalty as essential for the protection of human dignity, as well as for the protection of human rights across the globe.
Japan currently retains the death penalty and is one of 22 countries around the world carrying out executions. Japan, like most other countries, has subscribed to an international obligation to work toward the gradual abolition of the death penalty and is one of the few countries where the population is consulted by the government, through regular polls, on their views about retaining the death penalty. This commendable measure, however, has for a long time not been accompanied by a thorough debate on the working of the criminal justice system and on the death penalty in particular. Such a debate would both inform the public and enable a review as to whether long-held assumptions still hold.Taking into account the voices of those who, in Japan and abroad, call for a thorough review of capital punishment and its place in the overall criminal justice system, we invite the Government of Japan to enable an open debate on this issue. Such a debate would allow the public to weigh for themselves the evidence from other countries, including European countries, that a moratorium on the death penalty, and its eventual abolition, can meet with public acceptance and actually strengthen the capacity of judicial systems to effectively carry out justice.