TOKYO - Two death row inmates in Japan are suing the country over how prisoners are notified only hours before the death penalty is carried out, demanding change and seeking compensation for the impact of the "inhumane" practice, local media reported.
Capital punishment in Japan is conducted by hanging, and the practice of not informing inmates of the timing until shortly before execution has long been decried by international human rights organizations for the stress it places on prisoners, for whom any day could be their last.
On Thursday, in what is believed to be a first, two prisoners sentenced to death filed a suit in a district court in the western city of Osaka saying the practice was illegal because it did not allow prisoners time to file an objection, demanding the practice be changed and asking for 22 million yen ($193,594) in compensation, local media reported on Friday.
"Death row prisoners live in fear every morning that that day will be their last," a lawyer for the plaintiffs was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying. "It is extremely inhumane."
The plaintiffs' lawyer said there is no law mandating prisoners be informed of their execution only on the day it is carried out and that the practice goes against Japan's criminal code, Kyodo reported.
Lawyers in charge of the case were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters. A spokesman at the Justice Ministry declined to comment on the case, or on how the death penalty is carried out.
The death penalty is usually imposed in connection with murders in Japan, and capital punishment has extremely high support among the general public.
No executions were carried out in Japan in 2020 - the first year without an execution since 2011 - and none have yet taken place in 2021.
There are currently about 110 people sentenced to death in Japan, local media said. The Justice Ministry was unable to immediately confirm the figures.