United Nations human rights experts say Japan was wrong to detain former Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation


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Hi Blog.  I wrote back in January in my Shingetsu News Agency column that Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan’s gaijin gulag was the right move — not least because Japan’s heavy-handed prosecutorial powers and treatment of criminal suspects is in itself a violation of human rights.  Now it turns out the United Nations would agree.  An AP article follows, courtesy of lots of people.  As Debito.org Reader JDG points out, “How’s that effort to turn Tokyo into an international financial hub going, BTW? Attracting much elite foreign talent? I guess Japan will be back in touch with the U.N. when it wants some more UNESCO listings…”

Given that Japan has been shamed for decades over its human rights record, and still has not passed a criminal law against racial discrimination as promised under international treaty it signed a quarter century ago (yes, way back in 1995!), I doubt this will mean much. But at least it’s a delicious vindication for our advocacy camp. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


Human rights panel: Japan was wrong to detain Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation
Associated Press/Japan Today, Nov. 24, 2020
Courtesy https://japantoday.com/category/crime/Human-rights-panel-Japan-was-wrong-to-detain-Carlos-Ghosn-owes-him-compensation

GENEVA — A panel of human rights experts working with the United Nations said Monday that former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was wrongly detained in Japan and has urged “compensation” for him from the Japanese government.

The Japanese government denounced the report as a “totally unacceptable” viewpoint that will change nothing in the country’s legal process.

In its opinion published Monday, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Ghosn’s arrest in Japan in late 2018 and early 2019 was “arbitrary” and called on Japan’s government to “take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr Ghosn without delay.” A determination of whether detention is arbitrary is based on various criteria, including international norms of justice.

While Ghosn is no longer in Japan, having fled in a dramatic operation that drew headlines worldwide, the opinion could weigh on minds in courtrooms in the country and beyond. It could affect, for example, the possible extradition of two Americans, Michael Taylor and his son Peter, whom Japanese prosecutors say helped the executive sneak out of Japan.

Ghosn, a 66-year-old with French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, led Japanese automaker Nissan for two decades, rescuing it from near-bankruptcy. He was arrested in November 2018 on charges of breach of trust, in misusing company assets for personal gain, and violating securities laws in not fully disclosing his compensation. He denies wrongdoing.

In December, he fled Japan to Lebanon while out on bail awaiting trial, meaning his case will not go on in Japan. Interpol has issued a wanted notice but his extradition from Lebanon is unlikely.

The five-member working group, which is made up of independent experts, called on Japan to ensure a “full and independent investigation” of Ghosn’s detention, and asked the government “to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.”

The working group said that “the appropriate remedy would be to accord Mr Ghosn an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.”

The opinions of the working group are not binding on countries but aim to hold them up to their own human rights commitments. Among its past rulings involved the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was likewise deemed to have had his human rights violated.

The panel, which is independent from the United Nations, noted a string of allegations from Ghosn and his representatives, such as that he was subjected to solitary confinement and long interrogations at day or night, and denied access to court pleadings. His team claimed that interrogations of Ghosn were aimed to extract a confession.

Japan’s system has been repeatedly criticized by human rights advocates. The panel cited previous concerns about Japan’s so-called daiyo kangoku system of detention and interrogation that relies heavily on confessions and could expose detainees to torture, ill-treatment and coercion.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the government had applied “appropriate procedures” in the case, and it could not provide full information to the working group before a trial had begun. For that reason, the ministry added, it would be inappropriate for the working group to make a decision on the Ghosn case “based on limited information and biased allegations” from him and his team.

“The opinion is totally unacceptable, and is not legally binding,” the ministry statement said. It also warned that the opinion could set a dangerous precedent, and “encourage those who would stand criminal trial to entertain the idea that flight can be justified and prevent the realization of justice and the proper functioning of the criminal justice system in each country.”

“Japan can by no means accept the opinion of the Working Group regarding the case of the defendant Carlos Ghosn,” it added.

Ghosn lawyer Jessica Finelle welcomed the “brave” decision by the panel and said its members had been “hard on the Japanese legal system” and the way that Japanese authorities treated Mr Ghosn, “specifically, violating numerous times his presumption of innocence, presenting him as guilty, orchestrating two of his arrests with the media…”

Ghosn was “very happy” and “relieved” about the opinion, she said.

“He is somehow is getting back his dignity because he’s been humiliated during this time that he was held in Japan,” she said.

Ghosn has accused Nissan and Japanese officials of conspiring to bring him down to block a fuller integration of Nissan with its French alliance partner Renault SA of France.

Ghosn’s lawyers filed a petition with the working group in March last year, appealing to its role to look into cases in which governments are alleged to have wrongly detained individuals under agreed international human rights conventions.

Its members declined to speak to reporters about the opinion, the U.N. human rights office said.

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18 comments on “United Nations human rights experts say Japan was wrong to detain former Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation

  • Thanks for posting this.
    I just want to clarify, this isn’t about ‘feeling sorry’ for rich 1%er auto-exec.
    Carlos Ghosn was a high-profile global industry leader and household name millionaire in an international company.
    But if they can do this to him, imagine what they can do to you, who will garner no press coverage, no high-flying lawyers, and no international leverage on your behalf.

  • Unsurprisingly “The opinion is totally unacceptable, and is not legally binding,” the ministry statement said. ” Sounds like China rejecting UN rulings on e.g. S. China sea issues. Oh, the irony, but since when was GofJ ever flexible? The Japan that can only say no.
    I always feel like Japan would walk out of the UN if they could like they did in the 1930s, saying theyre being bullied like “Christ. on the cross” and they just stay in the UN ’cause of America.

    Once again, they want to be in that privileged club, but don’t want to adhere to the norms of said club. Kind of like Groucho Marx in reverse.

    • @Baud

      It is weird that so many among them believe that everything was totally in order on the Japanese prosecution side, when even the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe himself, said this matter should have been handled entirely internally within the company and not be a public prosecution issue. The disconnect is visible.

      —- Source?

      • https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200109/p2a/00m/0na/004000c

        Japan PM Abe had hoped Nissan would ‘deal with Ghosn case internally’: reports
        January 9, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)
        Japanese version at https://mainichi.jp/articles/20200108/k00/00m/040/302000c (paywall)

        TOKYO — The subject of fugitive former Nissan Motor Co. chairman Carlos Ghosn reportedly came up at a dinner Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had with Canon Inc. Chairman and CEO Fujio Mitarai and others at a Japanese restaurant in the Ginza shopping area of the capital on the night of Jan. 8.

        Ghosn had been indicted in Japan under suspicion of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act, among other accusations. On Dec. 29, 2019, he broke the terms of his bail to flee the country, and held a press conference in Lebanon on Jan. 8 to tell his side of the story.

        According to Takeo Kawamura, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and former chief Cabinet secretary who was also in attendance, when the subject of Ghosn’s press conference was raised, Prime Minister Abe reportedly said, “Originally, I had wanted Nissan to deal with it (Ghosn’s case) internally.”

  • This is just comedy gold, the only reason I’m not laughing is that too many people are affected by this. The Japanese government denounced the report as a “totally unacceptable” viewpoint that will change nothing in the country’s legal process.’ Just incredible. Next time Japan cries to the UN about the North Korean abductions or about South Korea complaining about comfort women, the UN should just respond with “Those complaints are totally unacceptable and nothing will change in international legal process.”

    Didn’t Japan want a seat on the UN security council a few years ago? What a joke. But this is typical for Japan, they want to be an important player in the UN, but can’t even uphold basic human rights. Their answer also tells me that they won’t care about anything the UN says as long as it’s not something that’s legally binding. Even that is false though, as the ICERD was legally binding, but Japan refuses to pass laws against racial discrimination since 1995. So basically, Japan will do whatever it wants, it doesn’t matter if those things are unacceptable in the rest of the developed world. That’s definitely an interesting mindset. I already wrote about this on Debito.org a few months ago, Former Minister of Justice, Nagase Jinen once said that human rights, and pacifism are western inventions which were forced upon Japan by the US. And he’s not the only one who said something like that, plenty of Nippon Kaigi people want to change the constitution in a way that would give people less individual and human rights. Therefore, I’m not surprised at all that the Japanese government will continue to ignore human rights in the future.

    The funny thing about this though is that Japan wants to attract more elite NJ and NJ CEOs. Meanwhile they can’t even guarantee basic human rights to foreign residents, especially during an international crisis like corona, where the Japanese government banned all foreign residents from reentry for 5 months. And it’s not just about human rights of course, as NJ you can’t even do basic things like renting an apartment, going into a restaurant, sending money oversees, checking into a hotel, or getting a cell phone contract. You always have to worry about getting rejected, or your residency card getting copied 500 times before you can expect any service. You can’t even enter the country without getting fingerprinted every time. Yeah, good luck attracting elite NJ. Japanese politicians and bureaucrats are seriously so far disconnected from reality that it’s getting scary. How long will they manage to keep up this act of acting like a developed country? Every person that lived in Japan for more than a few months can see that beneath the mask we have a country that still has a cast system and totally ignores the human rights of its residents, especially foreign residents. Even low skilled Chinese and Vietnamese workers don’t want to come to Japan anymore because they’ve heard about what’s under the mask.

    • -Didn’t Japan want a seat on the UN security council a few years ago? Actually, Japan may be unique in only wanting this seat for prestige and image, and might be perfectly OK with non binding, essentially powerless UN statements.
      Remember Japan is all about the relationship between images, honne and tatemae. Western illusions, the trappings of cool-dom, but no substance. Surface over substance. Obfuscation vs real communication.
      Bunch of poseurs. Still, it may impress hostesses after work; “sugoi!”

      • Japan still wants the seat, it’s an automatic given.
        It appears to be borne out of Japan’s insecurity driven sense of entitlement. Something like ‘the Great Powers (of the last century) are all on the UNSC, so we aren’t ‘recognized’ as being truly ‘great’ until we have a seat too!’
        This viewpoint overlooks two important facts;
        UNSC permanent seats are (rightly or wrongly!) for the winners of WWII. Japanese refusal to accept responsibility for WWII denied them a seat when they were the worlds second biggest economy 30 years ago, so their chances aren’t going to get any better.
        And secondly, it betrays a lack of comprehension of the function of the UNSC; it’s not giving out seats for the sheer magnanimity of it, it’s about exercising power. Japan just wants it for perceived prestige, it’s got nothing to bring to the table- it has no foreign policy independent of the US.
        And this obsession with perceived symbols of prestige combined with a (willful?) lack of comprehension of underlying realities can be seen in the constant cheerleading of the Japanese stock market over the last 8 years. The BoJ has become the largest single investor in the stock market and holds shares in 75% of Nikkei 225 companies. Taxpayers money is being used to pump up the imagined economic revitalization of Japan. Why? Coz Abe promised to end 30 years of stagnation and because ordinary Japanese are filled with pride at high Nikkei closures without understanding how they are literally paying for it.
        And last week the Nikkei hit record highs not seen since the bubble-era, and everyone cheers, because like the imagined ‘glory’ of Japan’s imperial heyday, they are imagining that this means all is good whilst willfully ‘forgetting’ that the bubble wasn’t the real economy and its bursting caused 30 of economic pain.
        Willful ignorance of realities in favor of facile symbols of dubious (if any) real value.

        • -that this means all is good
          Surely not, with 1 out of 3 Japanese women ages 20–64 and living alone were living in poverty. Japan has some of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, 16% of Japanese children live below the poverty line.16% of Japanese children live below the poverty line.
          Its obvious. In the 80s I saw Louis Vuitton. Now I see Uniqlo at best, in fact the miserable new year period reminded me of a second tier Chinese city.

          How can anyone imagine the good times are back?

          — Sources on these stats?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Agree 100% on their decision. Judicial deliberation should be impartial, and free of one’s likeness/dislike or ideological preference whatsoever.

    This is exactly the same reason why I’m all for freeing Julian Assange and pardoning Edward Snowden(I don’t expect that to happen as the clown just pardoned 4 former Blackwater soldiers responsible for brutally killing civilians in Iraq.) Even though I loathe a person like former General Michael Flynn, I see his indefinite detention in the absence of physical evidence for his lying to the FBI, a gross abuse of power.

    And, now back in Japan, we are going to see the retrial of Iwao Hakamada, a former boxer who’s been released since 2014 after years of detention for the murder he alleged he didn’t commit. He should have been pardoned years ago.

  • David Markle says:

    Ghosn walks out of interview with DW.


    This is a depressing interview. Ghosn tries to bring up Japan”s hostage justice system, the unfairness of the trial of Kelly, his treatment in Japan, but no, the interviewer will have none of it. “You were accused and chose to run away, therefore you must be guilty of something.”

    Why if it doesn’t fit the narrative of Japan being a civilized country, the world doesn’t want to hear any of it.


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