No executions in 2011 for 1st time in 19 yrs for Japan

It was confirmed Wednesday that no execution would be carried out in 2011, the first time in 19 years that the state has not carried out the death penalty during a calendar year.

There has been at least one execution per year since 1993 when then Justice Minister Masaharu Gotoda approved of the first execution in more than three years.

Under the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan, however, there has been a succession of justice ministers holding cautious stances toward execution, which put a halt to executions.

The criminal detention facilities law stipulates that executions are not to be carried out from Dec 29 through Jan 3.

As no executions were expected Wednesday, it was confirmed there would be none this year.

As of Tuesday, the number of death-row convicts awaiting execution had increased by 18 to 129 from the end of last year--the largest since World War II, according to the ministry.

The Criminal Procedure Code requires executions be ordered by the justice minister within six months of the finalization of capital punishment.

However, the justice minister has the authority to decide on the execution period and the convicts to be executed.

Former Justice Minister Keiko Chiba ordered an execution on July 28, 2010, about 10 months after the DPJ came to power. However, the three subsequent justice ministers--Yoshihiko Sengoku, Satsuki Eda and Hideo Hiraoka, who assumed the post this year--did not order an execution.