Japanese Society and Culture


Criminal Justice, Japanese Criminal Procedure, Carlos Ghosn, Confession Coercion, Abolition of Torture, Hostage Justice, Comparative Legal History, Reception of Criminal Law, Poena Extraordinaria, Principle of Free Evaluation of Evidence

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The Carlos Ghosn case has focused the world’s attention on Japan’s criminal justice system. In particular, the system has been subject to intense criticism, condemning its reliance on confessions in investigation, and for proof of guilt. The investigative approach of using physical restraints on suspects and defendants to coerce confessions is critically referred to as “hostage justice”. While the Japanese Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecutor’s Office have responded to such criticisms by arguing for the uniqueness of the legal system, the problematic nature of this aspect of Japanese criminal justice cannot be denied, as noted by past false convictions and other evidence. The aim of this study is to examine why there are such features from a comparative legal history perspective.

Although there have been various examinations of these characteristics of Japanese criminal justice, there has been little mention of its history. When compared to the German history of the abolition of torture, and the move away from reliance on confessions in the German criminal justice system, the historical factor in Japan becomes clear. When torture was abolished in Germany, people looked for alternative means of proof, and, after many twists and turns, arrived at the principle of free evaluation of evidence. Japan saw no such struggle, however, and there is little consideration of alternative means of proof to confessions. These are the key findings of this study. In conclusion, “torture” in a sense has not yet been abolished in Japan.

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