Statement Re-Requesting Electronic Recording of Interrogations on Occasion of Retrial of Ashikaga Case
Yesterday, the Utsunomiya District Court held the first hearing of the retrial of the Ashikaga case. Why had Mr. Toshikazu Sugaya, who was innocent but imprisoned for 17 years, been accused and repeatedly convicted? The real reason why this tragedy arose should be thoroughly revealed to prevent another tragedy from occurring in the future.
From this point of view, the audio tape which recorded the 25 hours of Mr. Sugaya’s interrogations would clearly be important evidence. The tape allegedly recorded that without accepting Mr. Sugaya’s denial of committing the crime, the interrogators cornered him using the results of inaccurate DNA testing and he reluctantly made a false confession due to undergoing such unbearably harsh interrogations. During the retrial, the truth should be thoroughly revealed including, but not limited to, the examination of this tape as evidence.
The existence of this tape which enables the verification of the process of interrogations definitively proves the necessity for transparent interrogations, i.e., video recording of the entire process of interrogations.
The House of Councillors has already passed legislation twice to introduce electronic recording of interrogations and the current ruling party has promised the introduction in its platform without any additional conditions. However, some are opposing the electronic recording of interrogations saying that it would obstruct or delay revealing the truth. In addition, there is another movement trying to postpone its introduction by insisting that a new investigation method should be established in order to introduce electronic recording of interrogations. However, beyond the controversy on a new investigation method, it is unforgivable to continue to leave the miscarriages of justice resulting from faulty interrogations conduced behind closed doors, as they are extreme human rights violations. In order to prevent miscarriages of justice based on forced confessions and to reveal the truth, interrogations behind closed doors should immediately be subject to electronic recording.
Still now, innocent people have been classified as criminals by interrogations behind closed doors while the real perpetrators remain free. We believe the electronic recording of interrogations is the best way to reveal not only what actually happened behind closed doors but also to bring out the truth in criminal investigations. In addition, it will contribute to enhancing the reliability of investigations and consequently to securing the safety of our lives.
On the occasion of the commencement of the retrial of the Ashikaga case, the JFBA requests a thorough investigation of the reason why this miscarriage of justice occurred. Furthermore, we urge the immediate introduction of and legislation for the visual recording of the entire process of interrogations.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
October 22, 2009