Japan: Injustice for all?

I read this letter on The Register, which got me thinking. Looking for more information I found an article that seemed to verify much of what the first letter had said. However, I have been unable to find anything else, the Japanese ministry of justice’s official website was down, and I suspect much of the information I’m looking for is in Japanese.

Police alledgedly beating confession out of people and courts where judges have never found suspects to be innocent is however enough to paint a very bleak picture of the Japanese justice system.

[size=2][edit]Submission, confession, ok I screwed up that one. [/edit][/size]

Remind me never to visit.

I work a lot with people, both Western and Japanese, you work a lot with the Japanese criminal justice system. The system has its problems, but the innuendos made in that link are simply unsupported by any studies I know of – including critical studies done by human rights activitists and organizations – of how that system actually operates. Some of the claims seem like out and out fictions. I have never read complaints about press freedom in Japan from those human rights organizations that specialize in those kind of things, nor have there ever been any HR complaints of torture (although there have been a number of HR complaints about how confession is linked to a reduce sentence). Also, the factual features that the link cites are taken largely out of context. For example, the link mentioned high conviction rate (which is true), but what the critic does not mention is that the vast majority of cases that are dropped prior to indictment (a much higher percentage then in the US, for example).

Speaking of human rights activists and organizations, I dug up some links to Amnesty International articles.



Seems a bit more researched than the first links I posted, the focus is on the medeival prison system.

I’m currently trying to find more facts on the matter.

Sorry, I can’t help you more, but as Kalle correctly realizes, I do not know of a good source in English for information on this subject. I can of course, weigh in with my opinion, and though I do of course know something of the subject, I’ve only studied it specifically once.

Basically, what’s wrong with the system is that trials are largely useless and too much depends on the judge. Therefore, it can be much more arbitrary and is far less democratic than in other countries. That said, its awfully hard to land yourself in jail or even with a fine by breaking regular laws, the amount to which people disobey traffic laws, weapon, working, public laws and import regulations is profoundly high. And really, not even the police seem to care. Its the more serious laws that you have a problem with, in that there’s little equality for women and you can be quite screwed if you get on the wrong side. You can get lowered sentences for confession because its considered part of good behavior to admit your shame for what you did (if you did it). There are much stricter laws about how much can be known publically about defendants and suspected criminals here, so that’s why foreign press is usually given the cold shoulder. The Japanese press knows the laws, whereas its often happened that foreign press has tried to do things that are considered illegal here. (Please note that I don’t have any memory of them being convicted for it, shows you how lenient the law can be here as simply a guidance and a hand-slapping.)

The yakuza of course, does have some involvement in this area, but that’s not surprising, 'cause they’re everywhere. Hell, I buy this wonderful fruit from a yakuza on one of my train stops and they aren’t exactly hidden like you would expect. Everyone just takes as granted. Its really no big news and nothing to get upset over: they simply don’t tip the boat enough to be worthwhile and just get their own out of trouble.

There is no absolutely no censorship or repression of the press. That’s ludicrous. Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution. There is a certain segment that is extremely critical and nasty, precisely because the main news outlets prefer to be conservative and polite in their news coverage, so large criticism is rare. On the other hand, I believe we have one of the largest newspaper circulations and readership in the world, so maybe that’s the reason and its not entirely bad if all wants is to be informed and consider newspapers sources for facts, not opinion?

I’ve forgotten the rest, but that’s about all I can think of for now. If there’s anything you want to know, I guess I could give it a whirl…


Damn, would really have liked something more on police beatings. Of course, that police beatings happen occasionally is not surprising, Rodney King anyone?, but the allegation that they’re commonplace in forcing confessions did catch my eye. For now I’ll assume that Japan is no more flawed than any other western style democracy.

Also, seems like Jakub plagiarized me :wink:

Japan is an interesting country, from a criminological standpoint. I haven’t studied it myself, but it’s pretty much the only country in the world with the capability to measure such things, that don’t have an exponential (or close to) crime development 1950-1970. And had a low rate of crime to begin with, of course.

But it paints a portrait of an effective police system where only criminals get arrested. :-)