Two men sentenced to death for multiple murders have been executed in Japan—the first time the death penalty has been used in the country this year.
Koichi Shoji, 64, and Yasunori Suzuki, 50, were executed by hanging on Friday, August 2, taking the total number of executions under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to 38 since he took office in 2012.
“These are extremely cruel cases taking the precious lives of the people who have no faults. I have ordered the execution of death penalty after giving doubly prudent consideration,” Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita said.
Capital punishment is usually reserved for those who have committed multiple murders. All executions are carried out by hanging.
Shoji robbed and killed two housewives in Kanagawa prefecture in 2001 together with his girlfriend. Suzuki was charged with robbing and murdering three women in separate assaults within a one month period in 2004.
Japan’s Code of Criminal Procedure states the death penalty should be implemented within six months of the sentence being issued.
Thirteen members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which carried out the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, were executed in July last year.
Japan and the United States are the only two developed democracies to have capital punishment.
US to Resume Federal Capital Punishment
The U.S. federal government is resuming capital punishment after a pause of nearly 20 years.
Attorney General William Barr said in a July 25 announcement that he has directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to adopt an addendum to federal protocol, which will clear the way for the U.S. government to resume capital punishment.
The executions will start with five inmates on death row convicted of murder.
“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President,” Barr said in a statement.
“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
The addendum is similar to the guidelines used by several states, including Georgia, Missouri, and Texas.
It replaces the three-drug procedure that had been used in federal executions with a single drug, pentobarbital.
Since 2010, 14 states have used pentobarbital in more than 200 executions, and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have repeatedly upheld the use of pentobarbital in executions as consistent with the Eighth Amendment, according to the department.
The first execution is scheduled for Dec. 9.
The CNN Wire and NTD News reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.