International Law

Japanese Justice System May Change

Criticized for its almost 100 percent conviction rate, Japan’s legal system is in need of an overhaul, many believe. Among the critics is the country’s bar association, which condemned the execution of three inmates last week and called for a death penalty moratorium until the fairness of the justice system can be assured.

One change is already under way, however: as of 2009, six ordinary citizens will comprise a majority of those on judicial panels, reports Bloomberg. In addition to the six lay judges, three additional members of the panel will be professional jurists. Decisions will be made by majority rule.

The government points to public support for capital punishment as a justification for its continued use, and opponents of the planned change in judicial panels worry that emotional thinking could mean that lay judges are even harder on crime than the professionals.

Problems in the Japanese criminal justice system start with the police, Amnesty International contends in a July 2006 report. It says that police tactics used on suspects include “beatings, intimidation, sleep deprivation, questioning from early morning until late at night and making the suspect stand or sit in a fixed position,” and can lead to forced, inaccurate confessions.

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