Japan has been condemned for hanging two death row inmates in the country’s first executions since March.
Junya Hattori, 40, was executed in Tokyo. Kyozo Matsumura, 31 in Osaka.
They were the first killings under the administration of new Justice minister Mokoto Taki, the fifth during prime minister Yoshihiko Noda`s time in office.
Hattori was convicted of attacking and raping a 19-year-old student who was cycling home from college in January 2002. He set her on fire while she was still conscious, killing her. Hattori was on parole after being sentenced for a violent robbery.
Matsumura killed his 57-year-old aunt and his 72-year-old grand uncle in separate attacks in January 2007 and stole their money.
Seven executions have been carried out since the Democratic Party of Japan took power two years ago. Executions in Japan are always by hanging and usual carried out in secret and without warning. Families are usually notified after the execution has taken place.
The Justice Ministry is discussing whether to change the method of execution or to abolish the death penalty altogether. Makoto, who was appointed Justice minister in June, says he supports the death penalty.
Amnesty International says there are around 130 death-row inmate in Japan at imminent risk of execution. It says the secretive nature of the system means they may spend every day on death row fearing they could be killed at any time.
France urged Japan to restore a moratorium on its use of the death penalty following the executions.
“France calls on Japan to follow the path of the 140 countries who have, in law or in practice, ended capital punishment by re-establishing its de facto moratorium while it continues a national debate on the future of the death penalty,” a French foreign ministry spokesman said.
Germany also condemned the hangings.
“I am shocked by the execution of two people in Japan and the way the executions were carried out,” the German government’s top human rights official, Markus Loening, said in a statement.
“I again call on the Japanese government to eliminate the death penalty. More than two-thirds of countries worldwide have turned their backs on this inhumane punishment.”
Roseann Rife, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International said: “Japan’s leadership are choosing to hide behind public opinion rather than demonstrate leadership and work towards the abolition of this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”