Posted by debito on March 15th, 2009
Hi Blog. Sunday’s tangent: Suo Masayuki’s movie “Sore de mo, boku wa yatte nai” (I just didn’t do it), some quick thoughts:
Saw the movie on TV last week, I think it’s a must buy (I’m angling for the special edition, with 200 or so minutes of extras). I agree with the January 2008 Japan Times review by Mark Schilling: “…the Japanese are a law-abiding people for a very good reason — once the system here has you in its grips you are well and truly in the meat grinder. True, safeguards exist for the accused, who are entitled to a defense lawyer, but the legal scales are tipped in favor of the police and prosecution, who want to save face by convicting as many “criminals” as possible — and nearly always succeed.”
You can see more on Debito.org about the nastiness of criminal procedure here.
Soreboku is an excellent illustration of how court procedure in Japan grinds one down (remember, Asahara Shoko, correctly judged guilty, was on trial for more than a decade (1995-2006); it drove him nuts, and calls into the question the Constitutional right to a speedy trial in Japan (Article 37)). I fortunately have not been involved in a criminal court case (I have done Civil Court, with the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005) and the 2-Channel Case (2005-present day), and can attest that it’s a long procedure), but am not in any hurry to. Soreboku — long, drawn-out, well researched, and necessarily tedious — is one vicarious way to experience it.
What came to mind mid-movie was Michael Moore’s SICKO. One very salient point he made was how rotten the health insurance system is in the US: If you get sick in the US, given how much things cost and how insurance companies enforce a “culture of no” for claimants, you could lose everything.
Japan’s got health insurance covered. But the “SICKO Syndrome” here in Japan is the threat of arrest, given the enormous discretion allowed Japan’s police forces. You will disappear for days if not weeks, be ground down by police interrogations, face months if not years in trial if you maintain innocence, have enormous bills from court and lawyers’ fees (and if you lose your job for being arrested, as often happens, you have no income), and may be one of the 0.1 percent of people who emerge unscathed; well, adjudged innocent, anyway.
The “SICKO Syndrome” is particularly likely to happen to NJ, too. Random searches on the street without probable cause are permitted by law only for NJ. If you’re arrested, you will be incarcerated for the duration of your trial, no matter how many years it takes, even if you are adjudged innocent (the Prosecution generally appeals), because NJ are not allowed bail (only a minority of Japanese get it as well, but the number is not zero; NJ are particularly seen as a flight risk, and there are visa overstay issues). And NJ have been convicted without material evidence (see Idubor Case). Given the official association with NJ and crime, NJ are more likely to be targeted, apprehended, and incarcerated than a Japanese.
Sources: Research I’m doing for my PhD thesis; subsection I’ve written on this is still pretty rough. But in the meantime, see David T. Johnson, THE JAPANESE WAY OF JUSTICE.
See Suo’s Soreboku. It’s excellent. And like Michael Moore’s SICKO, a good expose of a long-standing social injustice perpetuated on a people that think that it couldn’t happen to them. Be forewarned.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo