What the Ghosn affair tells us about Japan’s judicial system
It was a mere fifty days that Carlos Ghosn had been detained, starting 19th November 2018, when he was finally allowed to appear – at his request! – before the Court in Tokyo on 8th January 2019, chained to a policeman by the waist and wearing green plastic sandals. Eight weeks had to pass for the Japanese judicial system to let a detainee publicly defend himself, and Ghosn could still remain behind bars for six months longer. The Japanese judiciary’s inner workings, beyond just the Ghosn affair, are under intense pressure because all the media coverage of his woes has shed the light of day on their modus operandi that involves crushing all dissidents.
Indefinite imprisonment without charge, denied access to the case, constant interrogations at any time of day or night with no lawyer present, squalid detention conditions and basically no chance of release on bail. These are the scare tactics currently used by a Japanese democracy – including cases where no acts of physical violence are committed – that doesn’t bother with the presumption of innocence or the rights of the defendant. I don’t know if Japan’s judicial system is the reflection – or the consequence – of an aggressive business community where the spoken word barely counts for anything, but the fact remains that the fundamental basis of the Japanese judicial system is its presumption of guilt. You have to take drastic measures – both morally and physically – to prove your innocence in this country! So Carlos Ghosn – to come back to this example – would be much better treated and would have a much better chance of being released on bail if in the period before his trial he admitted to the crimes, whether he committed them or not… He will remain in prison, so to speak, in such conditions for as long as he denies them.
It goes without saying that such a conveyor belt prefers false confessions from prisoners that crack more quickly and easily when not provided with any legal assistance throughout the sordid affairs, and when completely cut off from the world. Japan’s justice system boasts a 99% conviction rate but should really be asking itself some serious questions since that putting a time limit on custody and allowing people to have lawyers would obviously considerably reduce this figure that is worthy of a dictatorship. In fact, such an unjust process where the accusation only prevails because of and thanks to confessions – the one and only interrogation technique – is unworthy of a modern democracy. This 99% conviction rate dishonours a judiciary that – in all logic – only investigates cases that it’s certain to win, when it is acquittals and dismissed cases that shape the core of an impartial, or simply humane, justice system.
Japan’s detectives and judges should therefore learn to accept losing more often rather than only dealing with winning cases. The Ghosn case and the spotlight it has shone on such an archaic judicial system must force Japan to evolve because, when it comes to justice, the country can do a lot better.