Yoko Kamikawa, who became justice minister in Thursday’s Cabinet shake-up, said she will “act carefully and strictly as required by the law” regarding capital punishment, respecting the sentences handed down by courts.
“The death penalty is an extremely serious punishment that ends a person’s life, and I feel we must approach its use with the most cautious of attitudes,” Kamikawa said at her first news conference after the appointment.
“At the same time, this is a country ruled by laws, and we must rigorously carry out finalized court rulings. Death penalty rulings in particular are handed down by courts after careful deliberation to people who have committed heinous and grave crimes,” she said.
Kamikawa previously served as justice minister in the Abe administration between 2014 and 2015, during which time she ordering the execution of one death-row inmate.
The retention of capital punishment in Japan has drawn criticism from the international community, with the U.N. Human Rights Committee urging the country in 2014 to give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty.
Japan hanged two death-row inmates last month under Kamikawa’s predecessor Katsutoshi Kaneda, in the 18th and 19th executions carried out since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012.
Kamikawa also said Thursday her ministry will provide thorough training to police and other agencies on the application of a controversial law enacted earlier this year to punish the planning of a range of crimes.
“Making sure that this law is applied appropriately and fairly is a highly important task,” Kamikawa said.
The Abe administration has said the law is a necessary tool to thwart planned terrorist attacks, while its opponents warn that the “conspiracy law” could be used arbitrarily to crack down on civil liberties.