International Crime Witness Part 2
The Japanese criminal court system is based on American law traditions. Back in 1922 Japanese criminal law used the Old Code of Criminal Law that was based on German law. The new code of criminal law was established after World War II and the 1946 Japanese Constitution. In 1948, Japan adopted a new criminal code (Abe and Niebler,1962).Japan has made multiple amendments to the criminal code since the 1960s. Once a person has been arrested and becomes a suspect in a crime, they have the opportunity to discuss the charges with a public prosecutor and sometimes a detention judge. After the suspect has given the evaluatorexplanations then they areapprised of the case. At this juncture, a minimum of 48 hours later, the suspect may hire an attorney(Weschler, 1995). A 2013 article about Japan’s criminal court system investigated the statistic that 99% of its cases result in a conviction, even when the suspect is innocent. One reason for these convictions is that people who are innocent often confess.
Another reason for this conviction rate is that in Japan someone can be arrested and held for 48 hours without being eligible for bail. Suspect rights during this detention period require that the police inform the suspect of the crime, offer the right to remain silent, and advise the suspect that hiring an lawyer is at the sole expense of the suspect (Oi, 2013). This results in police interrogations being conducted without an attorney present. There are accusations that the police in Japan routinely interrogate and denounce suspects. In some instances, the interrogators have been known to become physically violent with suspects and even threaten to kill suspects (Oi, 2013). Formal accusations against the police department are rare. This is attributed to the fact that there are a limited number of people in the interrogation room and the suspect often does not have an attorney. It is only recently that people in Japan have begun to accuse the police and public prosecutors of unethical treatment of suspects. The reason for the abuse and the confessions by innocent people is attributed to the culture in Japan. The police and public prosecutors are concerned with conviction statistics and that is why they browbeat suspects into confessing. The actual guilt of the suspect is not relevant. Innocent suspects who confess do so because in Japan people are trained to feel guilt.
By confessing, the suspect is able to “unburden his guilt and repent for his crimes" (Oi, 2013). The court system in Japan encourages this mode of operation by police and prosecutors. If aninnocent suspect is convinced they there is no chance of being found not guilty, and knows that the courts will issue a shorter sentence if there is a confession, and then there is a logic to confessing. In a criminal court trial in Japan the burden of the public prosecutor is to prove that the suspect had a motive to commit the crime. This differs from cultures in which the prosecutors have a duty to collect facts and present a case based on evidence. If the police obtain a confession then they are relived of the obligation to prove a motive to the court(Oi, 2013). Many blame the entire corrupt criminal justice system in Japan on the destruction of the culture post-World War II. Japanese police had no power after the country lost the war. Any subsequent authority had to be authorized by United States military officials in Japan. The society-wide disgrace and shame associated with World War II is pervasive and has been passed down to subsequent generations. There is also a cultural element of deference to family and ancestors that is exploited by police and prosecutors. Suspects are often told that their family, living or dead, will be ashamed if the suspect does not confess to motives and crimes (Berger, 2012).
The Japanese were forced into a repentant posture after World War II. Guilt and apology became a common facet of the culture. The consequences of the post-World War II national atmosphere in Japan of regret, shame, and remorse haveaffected the manner in which the criminaljustice system has evolved. Japan has not been able to reconcile their guilt over causing World War II with their anger and shame over losing World War II. This has given rise to the nature of contemporary policies, politics, and the Japanese psyche (Berger, 2012). The economy of Japan since 1990 has been one of constant recession and this has negatively affected the prison system. The Japanese government is harsh in its view of prisons and does not allow leeway in policymaking within the system. There is no avenue for prison reform or the application of progressive social policies. This situation is attributed to the post-World War II relationship between the United States and Japan (Carpenter, 2008). Human rights advocates have worked to not only expose the ethical violations in Japan’s criminal justicesystem that encourages innocent people to confess, they have also worked to expose the violation of human rights that occurs in the prisons themselves. Prisoners in Japan suffer physical and mental abuse. The system is inflexible and as long as the prisoners are kept clothed and fed there is no other provision for their care.
The prisons are clean, as are the prisoners. However, prisoners have little human contact with people on the outside or with each other. There is no rehabilitative element to prison life in Japan. Most inmates live in small cells by themselves and are not allowed much in the way of personal items. Light switches are located outside the cells and the lights remain on all night. Prisoners who are out-of-favor are housed in cells that are not cleaned and are insect infested (Weschler, 1995). The Japanese premise that all interrogations should end in confession needs to be altered at the police level. Additionally, lengthy and abusive interrogation procedures need to cease. Prisoners should be allowed outside in order to experience some natural light, stretch, and exercise. A rehabilitation element needs to be introduced into Japan’s prison system and prisoners would benefit from contact with people on the outside. Japan’s laws need to be changed so that they “conform to international standards and treaties by which the country is bound. In particular, the law ought to be grounded on the premise that prisoners have both obligations and rights (Weschler, 1995). Recommendations for correcting the criminal justicesystem in Japan need to begin with legislation.
Abe, H., George, B. J., &Niebler, H. (1962).Readings in comparative criminal procedure. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Law School.Berger, T. U. (2012).War, guilt, and world politics after World War II.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Carpenter, S. (2008).Why Japan can't reform: Inside the system. Basingstoke [England: Palgrave Macmillan.Oi, Mariko. (2013). “Japan crime: Why do innocent people confess?” BBC World Service, Tokyo.Weschler, J., Human Rights Watch/Asia., Prison Project (Human Rights Watch), & Human Rights Watch (Organization). (1995). Prison conditions in Japan.New York, N.Y: Human Rights Watch.