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UN Committee against Torture Considered Report of Japan

      The Committee against Torture, established under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, held its session from 30 April to 18 May 2007. During this session, the initial report of Japan on the implementation of the Convention was considered on 9 and 10 May. Japan had acceded to the Convention in 1999.
      In the process of the consideration, questions were raised by the Committee members to the delegation of Japan on such matters as too much emphasis on confessions; audio- and video-recording of interrogations; police interrogations in the daiyo kangoku ("substitute prisons" in police facilities) as well as the treatment in penal institutions; the treatment in immigration detention centers and of refugees and asylum-seekers; and the issue of "comfort women" (survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery practices during the World War II).
      In the conclusions and recommendations adopted by the Committee on the basis of the report and its consideration, the Committee took note of some positive aspects, including the adoption of the Act on Penal and Detention Facilities and the Treatment of Inmates; the establishment of the Board of Visitors for Inspection of Penal Institutions as well as the new complaint procedures in accordance with the Act; and the development of the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
      On the other hand, concern was expressed about criminal justice and immigration policies in Japan. With regard to the use of daiyo kangoku and the organization of police interrogations, the Committee pointed out the lack of effective monitoring mechanisms, the insufficiency of judicial procedures for the protection of human rights and the restrictions on access to legal representatives and their presence, recommending the improvement of the treatment in pre-trail detention in accordance with the international standards. The Committee also referred to the lack of complaint mechanisms concerning the treatment during police detention as well as the insufficiency of complaint procedures in penal institutions, which are not totally independent of the Ministry of Justice and without adequate powers to investigate.
      Other issues of concern include: overcrowding in penal institutions and the use of solitary confinement; the treatment of death row inmates; and sexual violence, in particular the inadequate remedies for "comfort women" as well as violence and abuse against women and children in custody, including sexual violence, by law enforcement personnel.

· The 38th session of the Committee against Torture (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: OHCHR) [English]
· OHCHR press release, 9 May 2007, "Committee against Torture Begins Review of Report of Japan" [English]
· OHCHR press release, 10 May 2007, "Committee against Torture Hears Response of Japan" [English]
· Initial Report of Japan (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan)