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HOME > Public Statements and Opinion Papers > Statements > Resolution Requesting Electronic Recording of InterrogationsAdopted at the 58th JFBA General Meeting

Resolution Requesting Electronic Recording of InterrogationsAdopted at the 58th JFBA General Meeting

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In Japan, interrogations are conducted behind completely closed doors. Therefore illegal and/or improper interrogations have been repeatedly conducted and false confessions in depositions of which process is unable to be scrutinized have resulted in many miscarriages of justice. During the first three months of 2007, it was revealed that an innocent man in Toyama Prefecture was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned because of his false confession (Toyama case). In Kagoshima Prefecture, a trial court found in acquittal decision that false confessions were extorted from many people and that six were intimidated during illegal and improper interrogations into making false confessions (Shibushi case). Furthermore, in Saga Prefecture, a man suspected of committing a series of murders had been interrogated under a name of voluntary and cooperative interrogation lasting until midnight for 17 days and was forced to write a false statement admitting his guilty. The Fukuoka High Court upheld the man's acquittal severely criticizing that the person suspected was forced and induced to write the statement by police and there was serious illegality (Kitakata case).

 

Without referring to successive report of malpractice or miscarriage of justice, it is obvious that Japanese criminal justice system being contingent upon interrogation behind closed door has been devastated.

 

The JFBA has strongly insisted on the need for visual/audio recording of interrogations as well as reform of so-called hostage justice (which means restrictive practice in bail procedure) and abolition of substitute prisons (daiyo-kangoku) (which means detention of suspects under police control) in order to prevent illegal and/or improper interrogations and miscarriages of justice based on false confessions. Learning from past experiences that interrogations behind closed door had caused negative outcomes, most of Western countries have introduced visual/audio recording of and/or attendance of the defense counsel during interrogations and Asian countries such as the Republic of Korea and Taiwan have also introduced visual/audio recording of interrogations.

 

In addition, the Saiban-in (lay judges) system to be launched by May 2009 requires that hearings be easily understood by the citizens and that the public prosecutors submit clear evidence so that hearings would not overwhelm Saiban-in. Thus, disputes over voluntariness and trustworthiness of confessions should not prolong hearings as they currently do.

 

Under such situation, the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office announced, in May 2006, that it would, on a trial basis, introduce visual/audio recording of interrogations for serious cases supposedly to be heard by Saiban-in.

 

However, according to announcement above, the cases and time periods to be recorded would be selected under the discretion of public prosecutors. Furthermore, interrogations by police having fabricated many false confessions would not be encompassed.

 

It is of the belief of the JFBA that partial and/or ad-hoc recording with visual/audio method of interrogations do not solve disputes over the producing process of confession in deposition. The reason is because it will not remove the negative effect of interrogations behind closed doors and might further cause misjudgments on how the interrogations have been conducted.

 

As experienced in foreign countries which introduced the electronic recording system, supposing whole process of interrogations of all suspects are electrically recorded, illegal and improper interrogations would not be carried out and there would be almost no dispute over voluntariness and/or trustworthiness of confessions. In addition, no negative effect has been reported in maintaining public security or in investigating incidents in these countries.

 

Accordingly, immediate legislation to institutionalize visual/audio recording of entire process of interrogation is required as the Saiban-in system is about to be implemented.

 

The JFBA urges that

 

  1. the government immediately establish a law aiming to institutionalize visual/audio recording of interrogation and to deny the admissibility of any confession obtained by means of interrogation without being electrically recorded, and
  2. until the above legislation is realized, the Prosecutor General and the Commissioner General of the National Police Agency implement visual/audio recording of entire process of interrogation, if the suspect or the defense council so requests.

 

The JFBA makes its utmost effort to institutionalize visual/audio recording of interrogation.

 

Seigoh Hirayama
President
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
May 25, 2007