Statement by the President on the Hikinoguchi Case
On March 5, 2008 the Kokura Branch of Fukuoka District Court handed down a decision in this case, which concerned counts of larceny, forcible obstruction of business, homicide, and arson of an uninhabited structure, finding the defendant not guilty on the counts of homicide and arson of an uninhabited structure.
The main issue in this case (Hikinoguchi Case) was the admissibility of a trial statement by a cellmate of the defendant in daiyo kangoku (substitute prison), claiming that she had heard the defendant (female) "confess to the crime" of killing her elder brother and then committing arson. The court's decision did not admit as evidence the part of the cellmate's trial statement consisting of the crime confession on the grounds that its voluntariness was questionable, and the basis for that finding was the investigative method, which used the daiyo kangoku system to obtain the defendant's confession.
The cellmate was detained in the same daiyo kangoku facility (police cell in the Fukuoka Prefectural Police Suijo Police Station) as the defendant. After the defendant's first indictment she was transferred to a branch detention center, rearrested for obstruction of business, and detained in daiyo kangoku (police cell in the Fukuoka Prefectural Police Yahata-Nishi Police Station). The cellmate too was rearrested and transferred to the same daiyo kangoku. Subsequently the cellmate was indicted, but remained in the same daiyo kangoku instead of being transferred to the branch detention center. That daiyo kangoku has a cell for women with a capacity of two, and here the defendant and her cellmate were the only two inmates for over two months until the defendant was transferred to the branch detention center. During this period of time, the cellmate was hardly interrogated about the charges against herself, but interviewed almost exclusively about statements made by the defendant while in daiyo kangoku, and investigators made a record of her statements. On this investigative method, the decision stated, "It can be said that [the police], for the purpose of gaining information for the investigation via the cellmate, deliberately used daiyo kangoku to keep the defendant and the cellmate together, and therefore cannot escape the criticism that they used detention in daiyo kangoku for the investigation," and the court made the critical comment, "Therefore the defendant was arguably placed in circumstances forcing her to undergo interrogation by the investigative authorities through the cellmate. As such, the court would have to say that detention in a cell, which is supposed to be distinct from interrogation, was abused for the purpose of investigating a criminal offense." This is a typical example in which daiyo kangoku was used for the function of integrating investigation and detention, and extracting a confession from the defendant. It clearly shows the dangerous intrinsic nature of daiyo kangoku.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has for many years sought the abolition of daiyo kangoku on the grounds that it is a system which places suspects under round-the-clock control of investigative authorities and coerces them to confess. In recent years the evils of daiyo kangoku are conspicuously evident, as in the example of the Shibushi Case, in which the acquittals of all defendants were confirmed in spite of the false confessions that had been extracted from them during long-term detention in daiyo kangoku. However, the "Guidelines for Ensuring Appropriate Interrogations in Police Investigations," which were, it is said, prepared by the National Police Agency based on lessons learned from cases including the Shibushi Case, make no mention at all of the problems of daiyo kangoku, and it is clear that these guidelines cannot prevent investigations aimed at obtaining confessions, as in the Hikinoguchi Case.
In 1998 the United Nations Human Rights Committee made a recommendation on Japan's daiyo kangoku system saying, "The Committee is concerned that the substitute prison system (Daiyo Kangoku), though subject to a branch of the police which does not deal with investigation, is not under the control of a separate authority." In 2007 the UN Committee against Torture stated that "the State party should: Amend its legislation to ensure complete separation between the functions of investigation and detention (including transfer procedures), excluding police detention officers from investigation and investigators from matters pertaining to detention," and "Limit the maximum time detainees can be held in police custody to bring it in line with international minimum standards." In other words, the committee recommended that daiyo kangoku be abolished.
Certainly now is the time for Japan to take its first concrete step toward abolishing daiyo kangoku. JFBA is determined to continue its all-out efforts for abolition.
March 6, 2008
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
Seigoh Hirayama, President