Japan – Letter of Protest Regarding the execution of seven inmates on July 6, 2018

Below a letter of protest send by ADPAN members Center for Prisoner Rights and Japan Death Penalty Information Center

LETTER OF PROTEST

July 6, 2018

Ms. Yoko Kamikawa

Minister of Justice

Tokyo, Japan

Center for Prisoner Rights

cpr.jca.apc.org

Japan Death Penalty Information Center

jiadep.org

Regarding the execution of seven inmates on July 6, 2018.

This morning, according to an order signed by Japanese Minister of Justice Yoko Kamikawa, seven death row prisoners:

Matsumoto (aka Shoko Asahara), Kiyohide Hayakawa, Yoshihiro Inoue, Tomomitsu Niimi, Masami Tsuchiya, Tomomasa Nakagawa, and Seiichi Endo, were hung on the gallows. The Center for Prisoner Rights and the Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center condemn these executions which are fraught with illegalities.

First, the execution of Matsumoto is very likely in violation of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Article 479, clearly states, “Where the person who has been sentenced to death is in a state of insanity, the execution shall be suspended by order of the Minister of Justice.”

On June 15 of this year, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, on demand of private citizens, surveyed death row prisoners and found that 8 are either close to, or, in a recognized state of legal insanity. The association advised Minister Kamikawa to stay these sentences. While the Federation of Bar Associations did not release the names of the eight prisoners in question, it is quite certain that Chizuo Matsumoto, who is blind and suffers from incarceration syndrome, was included. We would have to harken back to the December 2007 execution of Seiha Fujima to find such a miscarriage of justice.

Secondly, according to news reports, 6 out of 7 of the executed prisoners were seeking retrial. Executing those seeing retrial is a violation of prisoner’s rights, as well as a denial of justice by those holding the reign of power. The United Nation’s Human Rights Committee has advised the Japanese government, a signee to present treaties, to not repeat executions of those seeking retrial. Needless to say, the three executions that occurred in 2017 was the first time since 1999 that prisoners seeking retrial were put to death. It is clear that the Ministry of Justice used this as a precedent for today’s executions.

Minister Kamikawa has persistently stated a desire to realize “a society in which no one is left behind.” Nevertheless, as of today, it is clearly evident that in light of today’s executions of 7 former members of the Aum Supreme Truth Cult, the minister’s declaration is just a façade to decorate the upcoming 2019 Imperial Enthronement, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to be held in Kyoto in April 2020. And at the same time, it is evident that the remaining six members of Aum Supreme Truth Cult will be executed under the same guise of “no one left behind.”

The human dignity of all human beings must be respected. We deplore the executions carried out today, and will continue to use all means possible to seek the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, and the termination of executions in Japan.

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JAPAN – Will new ‘plea bargaining’ result in greater miscarriage of justice and even death penalty?

 

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Japanese-style plea bargaining debuts but authorities fear spread of false testimony

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

Japan on Friday introduced a bargaining system as part of an overhaul of its criminal investigation and trial systems, while battling concerns the new practice could encourage suspects or defendants to make false statements that lead to miscarriages of justice.

The new bargaining system, which resembles what is known as plea bargaining in the West, allows criminal suspects to negotiate deals with prosecutors in exchange for information on another criminal.

Prosecutors can reward informants who snitch with a variety of benefits, such as a recommendation for a lighter sentence or a promise to drop his or her case altogether.

Unlike the U.S. plea bargaining system, admitting to a crime does not warrant a deal with prosecutors in Japan. The new system, introduced in a revision to the criminal procedure law, allows suspects in such crimes as bribery, embezzlement, tax fraud and drug smuggling to negotiate with prosecutors. The bargaining only applies to crimes listed in the law, with murder and assault off-limits.

Prosecutors hold most of the bargaining power, barring some specific cases that involve the police, and deals can be made before or after prosecutors file formal charges.

The Japanese bargaining system is unique in that it permits deals only when the accused snitches, said Kana Sasakura, a professor at Konan University who specializes in criminal law.

“Bargaining systems around the world are usually based on rewarding suspects who confess” to a crime, but the revised Japanese law lacks that system and instead focuses entirely on deals between prosecutors and informants to aid investigations, she said.

Prosecutors had been advocating for the introduction of a bargaining system, claiming that changes in criminal procedure law, including a new rule obligating the recording of interrogations in certain investigations, required new and “diverse” ways to obtain evidence.

Yet critics are worried that pressure from prosecutors to cut deals will only reinforce the weaknesses of Japan’s current criminal justice system, which is largely dependent on confessions, unless proper measures are put in place to prevent false testimony and miscarriages of justice.

There will be “a strong incentive to “implicate others to get away with their own crimes or receive a lighter sentence,” said Sasakura. “That does lead to the possibility of wrongful accusations and convictions.”

Indeed, a 2005 report by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law (now Pritzker School of Law) found that, since 1973, more than 45 percent of the wrongful convictions involving men on death row in the United States who were later exonerated were obtained in part through such arrangements.

Also, out of 330 DNA exoneration cases in the U.S., 22 percent involved informant testimony that was used as evidence to convict, according to Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

To prevent suspects or the accused from lying to get a deal, Japan’s revised law penalizes false depositions and obliges defense lawyers to be involved in the bargaining process. If depositions are found to be false, those giving them will face up to five years in jail.

But critics are skeptical these measures would be enough to prevent fabrications.

Penalizing false depositions could “make it harder for informants to retract what they said,” Sasakura pointed out. Instead of discouraging false statements, the penalty may instead push informants to stick with their story even if it’s false, she explained.

Getting lawyers involved doesn’t guarantee false statements won’t be made, either.

Defense lawyers might find themselves in an ethical dilemma — whether to fight for their client’s best interests by making a deal or to see justice served, said Yuji Shiratori, a professor at Kanagawa University who specializes in criminal procedure law.

The lawyer of the informant “won’t have access to the information needed to make a justified decision about the ‘other case’ (involving an accomplice) and decide what is best for the client” when considering whether to bargain with prosecutors, he added.

“There are measures to deal with individual issues arising from the introduction of the bargaining system. But upon closer examination of such steps, it’s hard to say they would do enough” to prevent miscarriages of justice, Sasakura said.

Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor and current lawyer at Gohara Compliance and Law Office in Tokyo, insisted it is necessary to record people’s statements to detect the false ones.

Fabricated statements usually change over time to fit objective facts, so “it’s very important to know whether any ex post facto tweaks to the story have been made” to assess whether the informant’s account is false, he said.

However, given that the bargaining process won’t be recorded, it will be hard to judge whether a statement is false, he added.

Since informants, defense lawyers and prosecutors all have a stake in ensuring the depositions of suspects or defendants are true, it may make the Japanese criminal justice system more prone to wrongful convictions, Gohara also said.

Sasakura, the professor at Konan University, pointed out that the reliance on confessions and statements is a distinct aspect of the Japanese criminal justice system.

Behind Japan’s wrongful convictions is an “underlying mentality that confessions and statements are the most reliable piece of information,” sometimes more so than scientific and objective evidence, she said.

In the past, Japanese investigators “forced suspects to confess by applying pressure and conducting torturous interviews,” said Gohara. With the new system, the prosecutors will try to make them speak up in return for benefits.

“The way prosecutors try to make suspects or defendants speak may change, but the reality (of the confession-based justice system) won’t,” he added. – Japan Times, 31/5/2018

Indonesia: Newly amended anti-terror law threatens to undermine human rights

Indonesia: Newly amended anti-terror law threatens to undermine human rights

Reacting to the decision of the House of Representatives on Friday to pass into law the revision of the anti-terrorism bill, Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said:

“The newly-passed law contains a number of draconian articles that threaten to undermine human rights in Indonesia. The law erodes safeguards against arbitrary detention and against torture and other ill-treatment, as well as expanding the scope of the application of the death penalty. Plans to deploy the military in counter-terrorism operations are also deeply concerning.

“The vagueness of some of the law’s wording could be used by authorities to restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly or misused to label peaceful political activities as terrorism. This lack of clarity violates the requirement under international human rights law that  criminal law must be formulated with enough precision for people to understand what conduct is prohibited.

“To protect the right to a fair trial and safeguard against torture and other ill-treatment, authorities must ensure that detainees are not restricted in their access to lawyers and that regular contact with family members or a relevant third party is guaranteed. Authorities must also ensure that the implementation of the law is in line with Indonesia’s obligations regarding the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Background

The government proposed amendments to the anti-terror law in January 2016 in the wake of a terror attack in Jakarta which killed eight people. The amendment process at the parliament was in limbo for around two years until May 2018. However, the process was fast-tracked in the past two weeks following a series of bomb blasts and attacks against police officers and people attending services in several Christian churches in the provinces of West Java, East Java and Riau, that killed at least 39 men, women and children and injured around 50 others between May 8 and May 16, and completed this morning.

The Anti-Terrorism Law now grants police powers to hold suspects for up to 221 days without being brought to court – a blatant violation of the right of anyone arrested on a criminal charge to be brought promptly before a judge and be tried within a reasonable time or be released

Amnesty International Indonesia has written an open letter to parliament outlining its concerns about the new law.