Posts Tagged ‘Matsumoto Kenji’

World Day Against the Death Penalty

The World Day Against the Death Penalty was created in Rome on 13th May 2002, with 10th October No to the death penaltyestablished as the date for its annual commemoration in 2003.  The World Coalition against the Death Penalty has 158 member organisations, made up of NGO’s, Bar Associations, local bodies and Unions.

Amnesty International is a member of the Coalition.  It has been working to end executions since 1977, when only 15 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.  That number has now risen to 140.

Since that date –

  • By the end of 2015, 102 Countries had completely abolished the death penalty.
  • 1,634 executions were carried out in 2015 (excluding China – figures unknown) – an increase of 54% over 2014
  • 89% of executions in the course of the year took place in three countries – China, Iran and Iraq – often after unfair trial

The United Nations Moratorium on the Death Penalty calls for States maintaining the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use, with a view to abolition, and in the meantime to restrict the number of offences punishable by execution, and to respects the rights of those on death row.  It also calls on States that have abolished the death penalty not to reinstate it.  (Note: UN resolutions are not binding).

Amnesty International is calling for:

  • Countries that still use the death penalty to halt all executions immediately
  • Countries that have stopped executing prisoners to remove the death penalty from their legal books, for all crimes, permanently
  • All death sentences to be commuted to terms of imprisonment

The Salisbury Group have included the abolition of the death penalty in its campaigns from the

Members of the group at the NWR conference

Members of the group at the NWR conference

beginning.  It is currently focusing on the sentencing to death and execution of juveniles, in particular in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

For this year’s World Day, Amnesty are highlighting the case of the Japanese prisoner, Matsumoto Kenji.  The Salisbury Group manned a stall at the NWR Conference on Saturday, (see photo) in the course of which they collected 50 signatures on cards calling on the Minister of Justice to halt the execution, to end the use of solitary confinement for death row prisoners and to end the use of the death penalty in Japan.

Matsumoto Kenji factsheet (pdf)





Sources:        World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Wikipedia,  Amnesty International

The following three factsheets have been produced by the group for use on stalls and on campaigns generally.  They can be downloaded here (pdf files).  One is about the group and what it does and has achieved; another is a death penalty case in Japan for the World Day Against the Death Penalty on Saturday, and the last is about refugees.

Who we are factsheet

Matsumoto Kenji

Refugee fact sheet

[If any Amnesty group would like one of these sheets we are happy to modify them, with their own group details on for example, and send you an amended pdf]



Making a Murderer and Matsumoto Kenji: The truth can be stranger than fiction
Matsumoto Kenji Matsumoto Kenji © Private
  • A man from a poor background, with an IQ below 70; a score so low that he has difficulty comprehending what is happening to him.
  • His implication in a serious crime, in which a dominant older relative was the prime suspect.
  • A confession extracted by police after hours of intense interrogation, a confession which was subsequently described as ‘coercive’ by the man’s lawyers.

Well, if you’ve been watching the Netflix documentary ‘Making a Murderer’ you may be thinking of the case of Brendan Dassey who, at the age of 16, confessed to assisting his uncle in a rape and murder after hours of intense police questioning.  No lawyer was present during the interrogation, nor was his mother, despite the fact that he was a minor.

Dassey later recanted his confession and one Wisconsin lawyer who assisted on the case on seeing the video of the ‘confession’, described “feeling physically sick as I watched it (sic), he just didn’t understand what was going on”.  No physical evidence linked him to the crime and jurors have stated that his conviction was heavily influenced by the confession.

Brendan Dassey is not the only young man spending a very long time in prison after being convicted of a crime following a confession extracted in contentious circumstances.

In 1993 Matsumoto Kenji – along with his older brother – was arrested and charged with a double murder in Japan. Kenji has an IQ of between 60 and 70, allegedly caused by Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) which was common in the prefecture in which he was born, around the time he was born. As a result of the condition Kenji suffered from seriously hampered cognitive function.

Amnesty has serious concerns about Kenji’s treatment at the hands of the police.  His interrogation has been described at coercive, as officers offered him food if he talked and told him to “be a man” during the interrogation.

Upon learning of a warrant being issued for his arrest, his brother killed himself and Kenji was left to face trial alone.  During his trial it was accepted by the court that he was totally dependent upon his brother and was unable to stand up to him.  Following his conviction he was sentenced to death, a sentence which has been repeatedly upheld in subsequent appeals.

In Japan, death row patients are held in solitary confinement and are not allowed to speak to other inmates, only receiving occasional visits from family or lawyers.  When they are in their cells they are forbidden from moving, being punished severely if they do.  They are also given no prior warning before they are executed, leaving death row patients suspended in an endless state of anxiety.

Unfortunately, Kenji’s mental health has deteriorated significantly on death row, to the point that he has developed a delusional disorder.  His lawyers have argued that he is currently unable to communicate or understand information pertinent to his case and they further believe that his isolation has contributed significantly to his deteriorating mental health condition.

No to the death penaltyThese two cases, so similar, illustrate the vulnerability of individuals with serious learning difficulties in the face of major criminal charges, and the difficulty they face in ensuring their right to fair treatment at the hands of authorities in the criminal justice system.

Under international laws around use of the death penalty, it is illegal to execute someone with serious mental or intellectual disabilities.  At Amnesty, we continue to oppose the death penalty in all instances and in all cases as it’s a violation of the right to life and to be free from torture.

Call for justice for Kenji on his birthday

Today is Kenji’s 65th birthday. It’s the 16th birthday he has spent on death row.Kenji’s case is currently under review for appeal and the Minister of Justice will be the key decision-maker. If you have a moment, please write to him and call for him not to execute Kenji.

What to say

Please write to Justice Minister Matsuhide Iawki, urging him:

  • Not to execute Matsumoto Kenji and to introduce a moratorium on executions in Japan;
  • To commute Matsumoto Kenji and all other prisoners’ death sentences;
  • To Improve the treatment of death row inmates, including an end to solitary confinement;
  • To promote debate on the abolition of the death penalty in Japan.

You can also write to Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki and ask him to:

  • Ensure that Matsumoto Kenji’s health is regularly assessed and he is provided with any necessary treatment.

Whom to contact

Minister of Justice, Matsuhide Iawki
Ministry of Justice
1-1-1 Kasumigaseki
Tokyo 100-8977

Twitter: @MOJ_HOUMU

Minister of Health, Yasuhisa Shiozaki
1-2-2 Kasumigaseki
Tokyo, 100-8916

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