/ 24 October 2007

Japan minister mulls ‘tranquil’ executions

Japanese Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said on Wednesday he wanted to consider more ‘tranquil’ methods of execution.

Japan generally executes several convicts a year, always by hanging.

”I am fully aware that ‘death by hanging’ is written in the criminal code,” Hatoyama said after a parliamentary committee meeting, Kyodo news agency said.

”A square part of the floor opens up and they fall with a thud,” he said. ”I honestly wonder if there isn’t a more tranquil way of doing this,” Kyodo quoted him as adding.

It was not clear what other methods he was considering.

The lethal injection method has hit problems in the United States, where the Supreme Court is set to rule on whether administering the commonly used three-chemical cocktail violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

All but one of the 38 US states with the death penalty and the federal government use lethal injection, which has come under scrutiny after botched executions in California and Florida in which the condemned took over 30 minutes to die.

Electrocution was introduced in New York in 1888 as a more humane method of execution than hanging, but there have been instances of inmates catching fire, multiple jolts being needed to kill and bones being broken by convulsing limbs.

Hatoyama came under fire in September for suggesting those sentenced to death should be executed automatically, without having the penalty approved by the justice minister as is current practice.

He said on Wednesday he would like to hear the opinions of those opposed to the death penalty. Opinion polls show most Japanese back capital punishment. – Reuters