Japan’s ‘hostage’ justice system slammed
The Manila Times
Asia And Oceania
TOKYO: Japan’s justice system “systematically” violates suspects’ rights by routinely denying bail and extending detentions through rearrests, Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged on Thursday. A report compiled over three years by the nongovernmental organization takes aim at the East Asian country’s “hostage justice” system — a term widely used after former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn’s shock arrest and escape from Japan sparked scrutiny of the process. The rights group gathered testimony from 30 people currently or previously accused of crimes in Japan, as well as more than two dozen experts and family members. “Japan has a legal system widely regarded internationally as competent and impartial,” the report said. “But its criminal justice system functions on laws, procedures and practices that systematically violate the rights of accused persons.” Japanese prosecutors can hold a suspect for up to 23 days for each charge they are investigating, and may interrogate a detainee without a lawyer during this period. “One of the most egregious ways that prosecutors and police abuse the criminal justice system is by filing new claims related to the same case,” HRW said. Each rearrest begins a fresh preindictment period during which suspects are ineligible to apply for bail, while bail requests by indicted suspects are often denied. “Suspects are frequently detained prior to trial for long and arbitrary periods — sometimes for up to several months or over a year — to obtain their confessions,” the report said. Ghosn’s 2018 arrest on suspicion of financial misconduct thrust the issue into the global spotlight. While in prison, the French-Brazilian-Lebanese automobile tycoon told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that his months-long detention would “not be normal in any other democracy.” He fled Japan hidden in an audio equipment box after being granted bail, and now lives as a fugitive in Lebanon. A United Nations working group said in 2020 that Ghosn’s arrest and detention in Japan had been “fundamentally unfair,” a view Tokyo slammed as “unacceptable.” The Japanese Justice Ministry last year commissioned an expert panel to research reforms to the criminal code.