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2011 March 30 - April 5 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

editorial  Whole process of interrogations should be filmed

April 4, 2011
Editorial (excerpts)

A private advisory panel to the justice minister on March 31 submitted a proposal in reference to prosecutors to Minister Eda Satsuki.

The proposal calls for the video recording of interrogations.

It is being asserted that the video recording of the whole questioning process will eliminate unfair and illegal interrogations. However, judicial authorities and prosecutors have tenaciously resisted the idea on the grounds that it will be an obstacle to investigations.

Hearings with people who had experienced false accusations shed light upon prosecutors’ abusive behavior. In 2007, for example, the Osaka District Special Investigators arrested a former vice mayor of Osaka’s Hirakata City on a bid-rigging charge. Later, he was found innocent. He testified at the hearing that he was forced to confess in line with the scenario produced by a prosecutor saying that the ex-city official accepted gifts which he had nothing to do with. He said that he received violent threats during the questioning and got yelled at by prosecutors using abusive language. Although he had a serious chronic disease, he was not allowed to take necessary medicines and his conditions became worse. He recalled, “I thought I was going to die.”

A survey conducted with prosecutors shows that 30% said that as forced confession tactics, they have seen or heard of interrogations which may be legally problematic. 25% said they have had the experience of writing a deposition different from the actual deposition.

The present investigative methods place more importance on confessions than on objective evidence. Under such circumstances, prosecutors tend to ignore the human rights of the suspects and draw a deposition according to their own interpretation. Many have no hesitation in intimidating and coercing suspects into making false confessions. Some even tell the suspects that the prosecutors’ office will be lenient if they confess. The illegal and unfair interrogations are not rare among prosecutors.

Taking the proposal seriously, it is necessary to review the existing manner of judicial procedures which are heavily dependent on depositions written by prosecutors and to establish the requirement of video recordings of interrogation sessions.
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