Japan executed three inmates Thursday morning, the first since July 2010, Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa said.
The Justice Ministry identified the three as Tomoyuki Furusawa, Yasuaki Uwabe and Yasutoshi Matsuda. All three were convicted of multiple murders.
The executions took place in jails in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.
In July 2010, two prisoners were hanged under former justice minister Keiko Chiba, who had previously opposed capital punishment.
Japan had carried out executions every year from 1994 to 2010.
Ogawa told a news conference that he ordered the executions as it was a justice minister’s “duty stipulated by law.” Amnesty International Japan said in a statement that when the contents of the law are against international human rights standards, it is also a duty for a justice minister, Justice Ministry and the government to make efforts to revise the law.
Japan and the United States are two of the few major industrial countries that still impose death sentences.
Kenji Utsunomiya, president of the Japan Federation of the Bar Association, condemned the executions as “highly regrettable.” “We protest strongly against the resumption of capital punishment,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Utsunomiya added that the organization submitted a request to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in late February, asking him to start a national debate on the abolition of the death penalty.
The 1995 poison-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system carried out by the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, which killed 13 and made thousands ill, stopped the growing movement to abolish the death penalty, critics said.
Few people dare voice opposition to the death sentences handed down to the cult’s members, including Shoko Asahara, the mastermind behind the attack.