ERI around the World: Will the Japanese Accept the Benefits?

While electronic recording of interrogations gains momentum in the US in light of recent policy change in the Federal government and its decision to require electronic video and audio recordings of interrogations, the rest of the world maintains a wide variety of positions on the matter.

iRecord wants to share tidbits from what’s happening around the world when it comes to interrogation and capturing testimony and confessions. This month we spotlight Japan.

What does the Japanese Criminal Justice System Mandate?

For decades Japan has been criticized by national and international bodies when it comes to its treatment of criminals. The International Bar Association released a publication in December of 2003 Interrogation of Criminal Suspects in Japan: An Introduction of Electronic Recording in which they articulated the need for electronic recording of interviews and more.

In the executive summary the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) reports a concern over the “lack of transparency in the process of police interrogation” in Japan, which as has been pointed out in case after case in the US, which can raise the risk of false confessions and does not promote accountability among officials conducting interrogations.

Accordingly, the JFBA shared a list of benefits that flow from electronically recording interrogations and interviews among those charged in criminal cases.

7 Significant Benefits the IBA Determined about ERI:

  1. “Creation of an objective and complete record of proceedings that is more reliable than other means of reporting and that remains available for later examination and application as required.
  2. Protection of suspects from the fabrication of false confessions.
  3. Reduction of the likelihood of ill-treatment of suspects by police.
  4. Fewer allegations of impropriety by officials, resulting in improvements in morale and public standing.
  5. Less time and expense on the interrogation process and on police preparation for and appearance in court
  6. Improvements in the delivery of justice to the community (pp. 6-7, 2003).”

That being said, although the IBA strongly recommended introducing electronic recording of interviews, the recommendation to immediately introduce a policy to raise ERI were rejected by the then Ministry of Justice for many reasons.

Click to Read the complete report Interrogation of Criminal Suspects in Japan: An Introduction of Electronic Recording, 2003.

While ERI is not prohibited in Japan, it has continued to face an uphill climb in acceptance. In 2010, another study published by Vanderbilt picked up the thread of challenges to how the Japanese criminal system deals with the constitutional rights of Japanese citizens. The study, Testing Japan’s Convictions: The Lay Judge System and the Rights of Criminal Defendants, posited that “Japan must modify its criminal procedures so that they agree with the constitutional rights of criminal defendants if it truly hopes to increase participation in government and to instill faith in the justice system.”

The author, Arne F. Soldwedel, points to how videotaping interrogations resonates the IBA recommendations made just a few years before, that achieving reliable and truthful confessions is connected to the ability to provide an objective and reviewable record of criminal interrogations.

Click here to read the complete study, Testing Japan’s Convictions: The Lay Judge System and the Rights of Criminal Defendants, 2010.

Since then, Amnesty International in its Japan: Briefing to the UN Committee against Torture, reports that while Japan has begun to tentatively embrace electronic recordings for some cases, it needs to do more. Specifically, Amnesty International has recommended that Japan:

“Abolish or reform the daiyo kangoku system of detention to bring it into line with international standards, including by implementing safeguards such as electronic recordings of the entire interrogation process, and ensuring that detainees are not questioned without the presence of a lawyer and have prompt and unhindered access to legal counsel (p. 13, April 2013).”

Click here to read the complete briefing Japan: Briefing to the UN Committee against Torture, 2013.

Today, the JFBA continues to call for recording of the entire interrogation process, as does the IBA. In a shift from the last decade of resistance, the current Minister of Justice, Hideo Hiraoka supports videotaping interrogations.

That being said, the cultural or underlying belief among Japanese citizens and police that “an arrest itself already creates the presumption of guilt which needs only be verified via a confession (BBC, 2009)” continues to leave room for bias in reports that are prepared by police and prosecutors.

Click to Read Japan’s Landmark Trial Jury Ends.

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