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Japan has the following 5 types of amnesties: (1) general amnesty (nullification of a conviction pronounced upon a defendant as well as extinction of right of prosecution against a defendant who is yet to be convicted); (2) special amnesty (nullification of a guilty sentence pronounced upon a specific defendant); (3) commutation of sentence (reduction of a sentence pronounced upon a defendant or mitigation of the execution of the sentence, or shortening the length of suspended sentence together with reducing the sentence); (4) remission of execution of sentence (remission of the execution of a sentence pronounced upon a specific defendant); and (5) restoration of rights (restoration of a status that was annulled or suspended by law following the pronouncement of a guilty sentence).
In terms of implementation methods, amnesties can be roughly divided into (1) amnesties by Cabinet Order, which are implemented uniformly for all persons who satisfy the conditions provided under Cabinet Orders regarding types of offense and sentence, base date, and so forth (general amnesty, commutation of sentence, and restoration of rights) and (2) individual pardons which are granted to specific persons based on individual examinations (special amnesty, commutation of sentence, remission of execution of sentence, and restoration of rights). Individual pardons can be further divided into routine pardons and pardons by special standards. Routine pardons are implemented at any time while pardons by special standards are implemented, concurrently with amnesties by Cabinet Order, for a fixed period of time based on criteria decided by the Cabinet, targeting persons who fail to satisfy the conditions to be granted the amnesties by Cabinet Order. Pardons by special standards are sometimes implemented independently from amnesties by Cabinet Order.
Amnesties by Cabinet Order come into force on the date of enforcement of the Cabinet Order concerned. In the case of individual pardons, persons listed in Table 2-5-5-1 make a recommendation for pardon to the National Offenders Rehabilitation Commission. If the Commission considers it reasonable to grant a pardon after examining the recommendation, it applies to the Minister of Justice for a pardon. After the Minister of Justice calls a Cabinet meeting in which a decision that the pardon is to be granted is made, the pardon shall be finally validated with the approval of the Emperor.
Table 2-5-5-1 shows the number of persons granted routine pardons by Cabinet Decisions in 2002, by applicant and type of pardon. 21 persons were granted remission of execution of sentence and 75 were granted restoration of rights.
Remission of execution of sentence is mainly granted to terminate parole supervision for life-imprisonment parolees, who are deemed to have already been rehabilitated. Restoration of rights is a measure to restore a status that was annulled or suspended by law where a person who is deemed to have already been rehabilitated is prevented from pursuing social activities due to the status being restricted. Both of these measures play a role as a measure of criminal policies designed to promote the rehabilitation of these people.
Table 2-5-5-1 Number of persons granted routine pardons, by applicant and type of pardon (2002)