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Is Japan's Criminal Justice System Very Efficient or Deeply Flawed?

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Published on Jan 8, 2008

Harsh Justice (2004): A close look at the criminal justice system in Japan

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Recent reports from some of Japan's top prisons are painting a disturbing picture of this country's 'third world' approach to justice.

A staggering 99.9% of those charged with committing a crime are convicted. "Court cases are simply ceremonies to impose punishment rather than determine guilt," explains top defence lawyer Yuichi Kaido. The police are proud of the figure which reflects their slick crime busting techniques. They use violence or threats to extract confessions from detainees and then pass them over for trial without jury. Few walk away from court free. "In only one of my cases has the defendant been completely acquitted," says Yuichi. His career has spanned twenty years. For those sentenced, the ordeal is just beginning. Tales of torture and abuse are beginning to filter out from Japan's most notorious prisons. One ex-prisoner recalls being bound with leather handcuffs, thrown into a protection chamber and beaten by the guards. " It's like a dictatorship, I witnessed daily violence and acts of injustice," says Kazutomi Honda. Inmates on death row suffer extreme psychological trauma as they await execution. No dates are set and prisoners can languish for years living in suspense. Falsely accused, wrongly convicted; many of Japan's prisoners can testify to their country's rough justice.

ABC Australia - Ref. 2111

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