Japan: A report documents violations of detainees' rights and due process rules

Japan: A report documents violations of detainees' rights and due process rules

ROME - In the file "Japan's 'Hostage Justice' System", Human Rights Watch documents the abusive treatment of pre-trial detainees suspected of committing a crime. The authorities deprive detainees of the right to remain silent in the absence of a lawyer, interrogate them without the assistance of a lawyer, force them to confess through repeated arrests and denial of bail, and hold them for prolonged periods under constant surveillance in police stations. police.

The presumption of innocence. As it is formulated – explains Kanae Doi, director of the Japanese section of Human Rights Watch - the penal system denies arrested persons the right to the presumption of innocence, to have a fair and speedy hearing to obtain the possibility of being released on bail and authorizes interrogations without the assistance of a lawyer. These abusive practices have resulted in the destruction of lives and families, as well as wrongful convictions. Human Rights Watch conducted an investigation in eight prefectures: Tochigi, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka and Ehime between January 2020 and February 2023. The researchers interviewed thirty people who were facing or have faced criminal charges. The organization also spoke to lawyers, academics, journalists, prosecutors and family members of the suspects.

Criminal justice. Japan's Criminal Procedure Code allows suspected offenders to be held up to 23 days before arraignment by a judge. The authorities use this period of detention to carry out interrogations, but do not respect the basic rules of due process because they ask suspects to answer questions and confess to alleged crimes even when they invoke the right to remain silent or to be assisted by a lawyer. Suspects are held in cells in police stations under constant police surveillance, often without contact with families. The limit of 23 days of detention before the formulation of the charges before the judge is in reality rarely respected because the authorities, when possible, tend to separate the individual charges so as to be able to repeatedly arrest people, who thus spend a period of detention before trial much longer than the 23 days established by law.

Bail. Arrested persons are not allowed to apply for bail while in pretrial detention. Even when the inmate is indicted and finally allowed to ask for bail, those who have not confessed or remained silent during questioning often have trouble getting a judge to approve their bail request. Pre-trial detention can last for months or even years. According to the organization, in 2020 judges approved 94.7 percent of prosecutors' pre-trial detention requests and the conviction rate at trial was 99.8 percent.

The rights of prisoners. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Japan is a party, stipulates that anyone arrested or detained on the basis of a criminal charge must be brought to court immediately. The UN Human Rights Committee reiterates that 48 hours is usually sufficient time to bring someone before a judge and that any delay must be absolutely exceptional and justified by the circumstances. Furthermore, according to the pact, as a general rule people should not be detained before trial. Human Rights Watch And Innocence Project Japana local NGO, will launch a campaign in June 2023 to urge institutions to reform criminal justice to guarantee the rights of arrested persons and align them with international standards of presumption of innocence and respect for individual freedoms.

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