Two death row inmates in Japan were killed today, following a controversial procedure where inmates are given a just a few hours notice before they are hanged, and relatives are not notified until the prisoners are already dead. Ryoji Kagayama and Mitsuo Fujishima were the latest condemned inmates to be put to death as part of this controversial "secret execution" program that has been condemned by human rights activists in Japan and abroad.

Though polls show Japanese support for capital punishment is consistently over 80 percent, the global community has called upon Japan to stop the program. The clandestine nature of Japanese executions is especially concerning, reports the Guardian

Prisoners, who spend years, even decades, on death row, typically are not told of their execution until hours before they are led to the gallows. Their lawyers and relatives are informed only after the execution has been carried out. In a report published in 2008, Amnesty [International] said inmates in Japan were being driven insane and exposed to "cruel, inhuman and degrading" punishment.

This marks the fourth round of executions since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012, and brings the number of condemned inmates killed in the last year to eight. 

The 2008 Amnesty International report says "short-notice" hangings amount to cruel treatment of Japanese inmates, who spend decades on death row never knowing when they might be killed, and could lead to mental illness. Kate Allen of Amnesty said in 2009 that "Japan's death row system is driving prisoners into the depths of mental illness but they are still being taken and hanged," adding, ""The mental anguish of not knowing whether each day is to be your last is terrible enough. But Japan's justice system also sees fit to bury its death row prisoners in the most punitive regime of silence, isolation and a sheer non-existence imaginable."

According to Amnesty:

Some live like this year after year, sometimes for decades. “To allow a prisoner to live for prolonged periods under the daily threat of imminent death is cruel, inhuman and degrading. The treatment imposed on condemned inmates in Japan means that they face a high risk of developing a serious mental illness while on death row.

Kagayama was sentenced to death in 2009 and Fujishima in 1995. Each were responsible for the deaths of two people. Currently, there are 129 Japanese inmates on death row.