TOKYO — Japan executes mentally ill prisoners, some of whom are driven insane by harsh treatment while on death row, according to a report issued Thursday by Amnesty International.
Prisoners given the death penalty are kept in solitary confinement, sometimes for decades, and are not told when their sentence will be carried out until the morning of their execution, which can lead to "significant mental illness," the London-based human rights group said.
The report focuses on five male inmates currently on death row. Amnesty International, which staunchly opposes the death penalty, had no direct access to the prisoners. It relied on interviews with family members, lawyers and medical reports to conclude that they are likely suffering from mental illness.
Japan's Justice Ministry had no comment on the report, ministry official Akihiro Ishi said.
Japan, along with the United States, is one of the few industrialized countries that still has capital punishment. The practice has long been criticized by rights groups and the main Japanese bar association, but there is little public outcry or indication the government will stop its executions, which are all done by hanging.
Executing mentally ill prisoners would put Japan in violation of U.N. standards for individuals facing the death penalty. Amnesty International is calling for an immediate moratorium on all executions in the country.
Makoto Teranaka, an Amnesty International official who was involved in researching the report, said the isolation of such individuals makes it impossible to fully assess or treat them.
"There is no objective procedure which is ready to be followed to examine people on death row," he said.
There are currently 102 prisoners in Japan on death row. Japan last carried out executions in July, when it hanged three convicted murderers.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.