Japan, the only other industrialized democracy apart from the United States that still practices the death penalty, may see a halt to executions with the recent appointment of Keiko Chiba as justice minister. Chiba, a lawyer and active death penalty abolitionist for the past 20 years, would have to provide the final signature for an execution to occur.

In Japan, a convicted individual can only meet with lawyers and family members once he has exhausted his appeals. He is told of his execution only a few hours before it is carried out, and his family is notified only afterwards. Hangings are usually scheduled on parliamentary holidays to prevent the subject from being discussed. Japan’s alternative sentence to the death penalty is a life sentence that generally means 30 years imprisonment, and courts are not permitted to implement it without the possibility of parole.

(R. Llyod Parry, “Japan’s death penalty effectively scrapped with arrival of Keiko Chiba,” The Times, Sept. 19, 2009). See International.