When Seiken Sugiura was appointed Japanese Minister of Justice last October, he declared his intention of not signing execution orders while in office. He based his decision on Buddhist religious beliefs and philosophy. When reprimanded by the Prime Minister he said that his remarks only described his personal feeling and did not refer to official duties. On Tuesday next he will step down as Justice Minister when Prime Minister Junchiro Koizumi retires.
During his year in office Suguira has refused to sign execution orders. He has received both praise and blame for his action.
Surely the act of signing is an act of responsibility, expressed as much in a refusal to sign as it would be in signing.
One legal expert gave support: “The law may expect a Justice Minister to exercise leadership in such decisions, depending on the trends of the times”.
Another commentator claimed that a refusal to sign was a failure to fulfil the duty of Justice Minister.