[Review] Minister of Justice – Toshio Ogawa
Here is a unique idea – let’s review a human being for a change… the Minister of Justice, Mr Toshio Ogawa.
There is, of course, a knack to passing judgment on someone else which, coincidentally, appears to be part of the new Justice Minister’s job description. According to the (at least) the title of the Japan Times, Ogawa “feels signing off on hangings just part of job description“. This is misleading though, because he does go on to explain in the interview that “I don’t really want to do it, but that is one of the justice minister’s job descriptions. With 130 inmates on death row and public opinion showing 85 percent of Japanese support the death sentence, it is inexcusable not to sign off on executions“.
Fair point. Although I am vehemently opposed to capital punishment, any Japanese Justice Minister would be in a difficult position when it comes to signing off on an execution. A 2009 Survey found that 85.8% were supported the death penalty.
Interestingly, support for the death penalty has been consistently increasing over the years: from 73.8% in 1994, 79.3% in 1999, to 81.4% in 2004. Although it would be tempting to suppose that the reason for the increase is that the Japanese society is getting older, as the elderly generation has a tendency to be more conservative in matters relating to the criminal justice system, the data does not support this proposition and there is significant support amongst the youth as well.
Mind you, this is not to suggest that the Japanese elderly are sweet and trustworthy! As anyone who has tried to catch a train in Tokyo knows, the obaachan (grandma) are singularly the most dangerous and deceptive people in the carriage. Never mind the walking cane or slow pace that they seemingly shuffle along the platforms… those gals can move once the doors open; be they getting on or getting off the train, the carriage can turn into a Taz the Devil-esque violent whirlwind of elbows and knees! Indeed, there was even a special section devoted to the rise in “elder crime” in the 2008 Crime White Paper!
Anyway… the data suggests that amongs those people surveyed, younger people are more likely to oppose capital punishment that their elderly counterparts. That said, even young people are overwhelming in favor of the death penalty. Not even the former anti-death penalty Justice Minister, Keiko Chiba, could avoid giving orders to execute death row inmates (she ordered the execution by hanging of two men in 2010). Contrast Chiba’s record with that of former Justice Minister, Kunio Hatoyama, whose particular brand of bloodlust led him to order the execution of 13 people during his term of 2007 ~ 2008.
Though what is arguably more interesting (in my opinion) is Ogawa’s position on the recording of interrogations; which is one area which he might at least be able to have some influence. At his first press conference on 13 January, 2012, Ogawa stated that his “basic position is that it is necessary to introduce the recording of interrogations”.
The issue of the recording of interrogations is a big one, and I plan on looking at it in future posts; but for now, it will suffice to say that this is a very promising development, and I look forward to seeing how Ogawa plans on grappling with it.