Japan to grant pardons upon Emperor’s enthronement

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government is making the final arrangements to grant pardons within October to commemorate the enthronement ceremony of the Emperor slated for Oct. 22.

Pardons related to Imperial family events will be granted for the first time in 26 years, since the marriage of the Emperor and Empress in 1993. From a victim-oriented perspective, the prospective round of pardons is likely to be limited to the restoration of rights, which is granted to persons who have been deprived of their legal capacity or had it suspended as a result of having been fined for relatively minor crimes.

When Emperor Showa died and the now Emperor Emeritus ascended to the throne, pardons were granted twice, on the occasion of the Taiso no Rei ceremony (Imperial funeral ceremony) for Emperor Showa in February 1989, and the Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi (enthronement ceremony) for the now Emperor Emeritus in November 1990. Pardons were granted to about 10 million people in 1989 and to about 2.5 million people in 1990. When the Emperor Emeritus abdicated at the end of April this year — the first abdication under a constitutional government — pardons were not granted.

Pardons comprise two types. One is “pardons by Cabinet decree” under which pardons are uniformly granted to people charged with crimes or penalties designated by government ordinances. The other is “individual pardons” under which the National Offenders Rehabilitation Commission individually reviews applications filed by persons concerned. In many cases of pardons being granted on the occasion of Imperial family events, both pardons by Cabinet decree and a kind of individual pardon called “special criteria pardons” are granted.

When it comes to pardons by Cabinet decree, general pardons were granted on the occasion of the 1989 Taiso no Rei to people charged with 17 kinds of crimes including those who violated the minor offense law. At that time, the restoration of rights covered not only people who were fined but also those charged with imprisonment with or without labor. Upon the enthronement ceremony that took place a year and nine months later, restoration of rights only covered people charged with fines.

In the current round of pardons by Cabinet decree, the government is considering granting pardons only to people charged with fines. Just like the pardons at the time of the 1990 enthronement ceremony, violators of codes such as traffic regulations and election regulations are likely to have their legal capacity restored. The Penal Code stipulates that the effect of a fine will expire five years after the penalty is executed and the punished person will have their legal capacity restored. If the restoration of rights is implemented, those people’s legal capacity will be restored without waiting five years.

Some national qualifications such as doctor or nurse may not be issued to people sentenced with fines or heavier penalties as it disqualifies them. If their legal capacity is restored, they will be able to acquire such qualifications. A senior Justice Ministry official said, “A pardon is also significant from the perspective of preventing repeat offenders, because it supports their social rehabilitation.”

On the other hand, the government established the basic law on crime victims in 2004, and takes a victim-oriented approach. From a social point of view, the protection of the rights of victims has become widespread. A source close to the government said, “It is not possible to obtain the understanding of the public if pardons are granted to those involved in crimes with obvious victims.” So, the prospective pardons will be limited to those charged with fines, which are applied to minor crimes.Speech

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