Japan executed two convicted murderers on Thursday, the justice ministry said, ignoring calls from international rights groups to end capital punishment. These recent hangings bring the total number of executions to 19 since conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in late 2012.
According to reports, Nishikawa, 61, was convicted of killing four female bar owners in western Japan in 1991, while Sumida, 34, was sentenced to death for killing his female colleague in 2011 and dismembering her body.
Yoshihide Suga, a government spokesman said that execution order was signed by the Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda, who had approved another execution in November 2016. "The justice minister made the decision appropriately under the provision of the law," Suga said in a press conference.
Despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups, the death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan. Opponents say that Japan's system is cruel because inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.
Japan and the United States are the only major developed countries that still carry out capital punishment.