(Tokyo) – of japan The system of “hostage justice” denies criminal suspects their right to due process and a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
101 page reportJapan’s ‘hostage justice’ system,” documents the abusive treatment of criminal suspects in pre-trial detention. Authorities strip suspects of their right to remain silent, interrogate them without a lawyer, coerce them into confessing through repeated arrests and denial of bail. coerced, and detained them for long periods of time under constant surveillance in police stations. The Japanese government should immediately undertake comprehensive reforms, including amending the Code of Criminal Procedure, to ensure detainees their fair trial rights and to protect investigators and making prosecutors more accountable.
“Japan’s ‘hostage justice’ system denies arrested persons the presumption of innocence, a speedy and fair bail hearing, and access to a lawyer during interrogation,” said kane doi, Japan director of Human Rights Watch. “These abusive practices have resulted in lives and families being torn apart, as well as wrongful convictions.”
Human Rights Watch conducted research in eight provinces – Tochigi, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka and Ehime Between January 2020 and February 2023. The researchers interviewed 30 people, either in person or online, who had been or were facing criminal inquiry and prosecution. Human Rights Watch also spoke to lawyers, academics, journalists, prosecutors, and family members of suspects.
Japan’s Code of Criminal Procedure allows suspects to be detained for up to 23 days before a judge can indict them. The authorities interpret the code of procedure to allow inquiries during this period. Investigators pressure suspects to answer questions and confess to alleged crimes, even when they invoke their right to remain silent.
Many suspects are locked in police station cells under constant police surveillance without contact with family members when a no contact order is issued.
Judges routinely grant requests from investigators for re-arrests and longer detentions. The 23-day detention limit provides no real restriction on pre-trial detention, as investigators may use detention for separate, minor crimes. or splitting charges based on the same set of facts as an excuse to repeatedly recapture and detain suspects.
Hidemi T. was arrested in September 2018 on charges of abusing and causing injury to her 7-month-old son. The charge was later dropped due to insufficient evidence. She told Human Rights Watch how her interrogation continued even after she exercised her right to remain silent. “I told the police that I would remain silent immediately after the arrest. Then the police got frustrated and continued to interrogate me, still trying to get me to confess that I had assaulted my son.”
Detainees in pretrial detention are not allowed to request bail. Even when the detainee is indicted and is eventually allowed to request bail, for those who have not confessed or who have remained silent, the judge will often grant bail. It is difficult to persuade to accept the request. Pre-trial detention can last for months or years.
According to Human Rights Watch, judges approved 94.7 percent of prosecutors’ requests for pre-trial detention in 2020, and the conviction rate at trial is 99.8 percent.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Japan is a party, states that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge must be “immediately” charged before a court. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that provides an official analysis of the covenant, has said that 48 hours is normally sufficient time to bring someone before a judge and that any delay “must be absolutely extraordinary and justified by the circumstances”. I must be fair.” Furthermore, under the Covenant, as a general rule people should not be detained before trial.
human rights watch and Innocence Project JapanA Japanese non-governmental group, also announced today that they plan to launch a campaign in June 2023 to end “hostage justice”.
“Japanese authorities should act urgently to reform the criminal justice system to respect everyone’s rights to due process and a fair trial,” Doi said. “Japan should ensure the right to apply for bail during pretrial detention and reform bail law to bring it in line with international standards of the presumption of innocence and personal liberty.”
Yasutaka Sado was arrested in October 2017 and remained in custody for 14 months before being released on bail. They said:
I tried to keep quiet, but I was constantly scolded, like “You’re silent because you’re guilty” or “Don’t you understand how much you’re hurting others by keeping quiet?” The prosecutors interrogated me three times a day, from 9 a.m. to noon, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and from 7 or 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. This continued for 20 days. The only breaks were lawyers’ meetings or hospital visits.
Kazuya Yoshino, who was prosecuted and tried for “injury causing death”, spoke about her interrogation in 2010:
I clearly told my version of events to the police, but they took the story as if it were a completely different matter. Immediately after the arrest, the interrogation went on all night – then around 5:30 in the morning they took me to the detention center and the interrogation started again after breakfast. On the second day of my detention, I was taken to a prosecutor. The prosecutor wanted me to confess that I was angry and punched the attacker several times to hurt him. The police and the prosecutor were interrogating me from morning till evening. As soon as my interrogation with the police was over, I was taken – roped and handcuffed – to see the prosecutor. I was asked to wait there till around 8 pm. The actual questioning by the prosecutor was very brief and I was asked if I had “changed my mind” and would “speak now.” He was there every day – harassed and forced to confess.
In 2015, Kayo En was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. Following her arrest and detention, the judge issued a no contact order on the grounds that she could conspire to destroy evidence. Kayo En was not allowed to meet anyone but her lawyer for a year, and could only write to her two adult sons with the permission of the presiding judge. He said:
After I Was Taken to the Tokyo Detention Center, I Was Placed in a “Bird Cage” [solitary confinement] From April 2016 to July 2017. It was so cold that it felt like sleeping in a field, I had frostbite. I talked only twice a day to call my number. It felt like I was losing my voice. The no contact order was lifted a year after my arrest. However, I remained in solitary confinement.