Japan’s Code of Criminal Procedure allows suspects to be detained up to 23 days before indictment. Japanese authorities interpret the criminal procedure code to require detainees to face interrogations throughout their time in detention. Exercise of the right to remain silent does not stop the questioning. The primary goal of interrogation is to obtain a confession from the suspect.
Suspects are detained in the police station detention facility, where there is almost constant surveillance. A “contact prohibition order” also restricts detainees to meeting and communicating only with their lawyers. They are not allowed to meet, call, or even exchange letters with anyone else, including family members and friends. Investigators are supposed to finish interrogating a suspect at the end of the pre-indictment period of 23 days. But they can continue to do so by starting a new pre-indictment detention period by carrying out a new arrest. Police and prosecutors achieve this by detaining a suspect on a separate, minor charge, or splitting a single case into parts.
After indictment, there is a system called “bail,” whereby a person is released from detention in exchange for the payment of a certain guarantee. Suspects are ineligible to apply for bail before indictment and the courts routinely deny bail even after indictment to those who remain silent or those who challenge their charges.
Thus, if they do not confess to their crimes, they are subject to long-term detention.
A man was arrested and indicted on suspicion of stealing 10,000 yen (US$90) from a convenience store.
Afterwards, he was ultimately acquitted. It turned out that there was another person claiming responsibility, and the police chief apologized.
Since he did not confess to his crime, his application for bail had been denied nine times and he was detained for 300 days. A contract that he had signed with a record company prior to his arrest to produce an album was cancelled, resulting in financial loss and setting back his career. He said that prolonged detention and the feeling of isolation led him to contemplate suicide.
A woman was arrested on suspicion of abusing her 7-month-old son and charged with causing injury.
It was a case about Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), whose scientific basis has been questioned, and the woman was not prosecuted after a doctor’s opinion that it was not abuse.
However, she was subjected to unnecessary detentions until the case was dismissed. As she followed the advice of her attorney and told the police interrogator that she would remain silent, they attacked her character saying that “The people at the infant care institution also said you’re putting on the mask of a good mother. They said you’re disgusting”; “You are abnormal”. In police detention, bras are not allowed. She said that it was very uncomfortable being in a closed room with two male police interrogators while her body lines were visible in her thin clothes.
（Cases of Yusuke Doi and Hidemi T. in Human Rights Watch report “Japan’s ‘Hostage Justice’ System – Denial of Bail, Coerced Confessions, and Lack of Access to Lawyers”）
In 2020, the bail rate at the first instance in the district court was 32.1% in cases of confession compared to 27.6% in cases of denial, indicating that it is difficult for the bail requests to be approved without confession. In particular, the bail rate before the first trial date is 25.9% in cases of confession, while it is 12.3% in cases of denial, demonstrating a remarkable difference. In other words, statistics show that if the accused deny their charges, they will not be released on bail.
Problems of “hostage Justice”
Under the “hostage justice” system,
Any member of the public can be trapped in this “hostage Justice” System, as you can get arrested and prosecuted without committing crimes.
The “hostage Justice” system has been strongly criticized not only by domestic scholars and lawyers but also internationally.
Based on these problems of “hostage Justice”, we seek to correct the way detentions are used. We will lobby Diet members and others to change the legal system and hold symposiums and other events to inform society at large about this issue. When doing so, we would like to deliver the signatures collected through this project as the “voice of the general public” to Diet members and other stakeholders of criminal justice.
We are asking the Japanese government and the courts to:
（See Human Rights Watch report “Japan’s ‘Hostage Justice’ System – Denial of Bail, Coerced Confessions, and Lack of Access to Lawyers”）