Declaration for Electronic Recording of Interrogations -60th Anniversary of the Implementation of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Implementation of the Saiban-in System-
This year marks the 60th Anniversary since the Code of Criminal Procedure came into effect on January 1, 1949.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has been making recommendations on various reforms aiming to eradicate miscarriages of justice and to improve the Japanese criminal justice system to conform to the standards of international human rights law. Especially, when we look at the history of miscarriages of justice in Japan, the JFBA is aware that the major factors which would lead to the miscarriage of justice are the prolonged detention of suspects in substitute prisons (daiyo-kangoku), the illegal and unjust interrogations lasting for a long period of time behind closed doors, and the statements of false confessions resulting from such interrogations. Therefore, the JFBA has been strongly urging the introduction of electronic recording of interrogations, more specifically, to visually record the entire process of interrogations, whether voluntary or forced, in order to prevent illegal and unjust interrogations behind closed doors.
Furthermore, under the saiban-in (lay judges) system implemented this May 21, open and intelligible trials are required. It is necessary to establish a system for saiban-in to easily verify the voluntariness and credibility of confessions. Otherwise, trials will be prolonged or become complicated to examine this point. Accordingly, when investigative authorities conduct interrogations, they should take necessary measures which make objective ex-post verification of interrogations possible. From this point of view, electronic recording of interrogations should be immediately introduced.
Many jurisdictions all over the world, including our neighboring countries and regions such as the Republic of Korea and Taiwan, have already introduced electronic recording of interrogations. Even during the past two years, the United Nations (UN) Committee Against Torture, the UN Human Rights Council, and the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Japan abolish substitute prisons and visually record the entire process of interrogations. The electronic recording of interrogations is universal and global mainstream in the criminal justice of the 21st century.
The Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office and the National Police Agency (NPA) are now visually recording a part of interrogations at district public prosecutors offices and prefectural police headquarters for cases which would be tried under the saiban-in system. However, the cases to be electronically recorded are limited to those of which suspects have already made confessions. After investigators have obtained confessions and made statements, they visually record only a part when they are reading the statements to the suspects for signature, or even after the suspects have signed the statements, only a part when the investigators are confirming with the suspects the process of making the statements and contents thereof.
However, when the process of obtaining confessions is not visually recorded, such electronic recording does not satisfy the requirement for saiban-in trials. Partial electronic recording is not sufficient to prevent illegal and unjust interrogations behind closed doors or there might be even adverse effects because it would give a wrong impression as if the suspects had voluntarily confessed even though they were forced to make false confessions. Such a situation is even more dangerous.
Therefore, we believe that electronic recording should be immediately introduced to ensure just investigations and interrogations as well as to fulfill the intended purpose of saiban-in trials. There is also a discussion to introduce a new investigation method at the same time with the introduction of electronic recording of interrogations. However, we emphasize that the electronic recording should be immediately introduced and the consideration of a new investigation method should not be a reason to delay it.
The JFBA reiterates its request to ensure the principle of non-detention, create a system to allow suspects to be bailed before indictment, and abolish substitute prisons. In addition, it urges:
- the State to immediately legislate to visually record the entire process of interrogations, whether voluntary or forced, and to deny the competency of confessions and acceptance of disadvantageous facts by suspects without such visual recording, and
- the Prosecutor General and the NPA Commissioner General, until the above mentioned legislation is realized, to visually record interrogations at every investigative authority immediately upon request of suspects or their defense counsel.
The JFBA will make its utmost effort to achieve the transparency of interrogations by visually recording their entire process.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary since the Code of Criminal Procedure came into effect and the implementation of the saiban-in system, we declare as above.
November 6, 2009
Japan Federation of Bar Associations