Hi Blog. Too little too late…? And not enough background on Japanese police abuses… Debito
Japan Thwarts Abusive Police
TIME Magazine Friday, Jan. 25, 2008 By AP/MARI YAMAGUCHI
Courtesy of Jon Lenvik
(TOKYO)—No beatings. No threats. No overnight interrogations. Facing mounting accusations of brutality, Japan’s National Police set their first-ever guidelines for questioning methods Thursday in an attempt to rein in agents who go too far in pressuring suspects to confess.
The new rules are the first serious step by the police to change their methods, which have long been criticized at home and abroad for relying too much on confessions — often coerced — rather than on evidence.
The role of confessions has been a cornerstone of a criminal justice system in which more than 99 percent of cases that go to trial result in convictions, and judges are much more lenient in sentencing defendants who have confessed.
The rules, outlined in a 10-page report, ban interrogators from touching, threatening or verbally abusing suspects or forcing them to stay in one position. Interrogation sessions that run overnight or last more than eight hours are prohibited.
Critics, however, say the new rules don’t go far enough because they don’t call for video cameras or defense attorneys in interrogation rooms, though one-way mirrors will be installed.
“The new guidelines are not totally meaningless, and they could bring a certain level of vigilance,” said Toshio Tanaka, a lawyer specializing in interrogations. “But they’re far from sufficient until interrogations can be visually monitored.”
The changes follow a series of high-profile cases that uncovered heavy-handed police tactics.
Police in November admitted that a man had served two years in prison after being convicted of rape in 2002 based on a false confession. The real rapist was captured last year by police, and the first suspect is suing the government.