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Japan police issue new interrogation guidelines to curb abuses

[JURIST] The Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) [official website, in Japanese] on Thursday issued guidelines for police behavior during suspect interrogations. The Japanese police have frequently been accused of forcing confessions from suspects [BBC report] using questionable or overly aggressive tactics; in one case, police pressured an innocent man into admitting to committing a rape, a confession that ultimately earned him two years in prison until the actual perpetrator was caught. The guidelines mark the first attempt by the body to curb such abuses. The guidelines include prohibitions against touching, threatening, bribing or verbally harassing suspects. Interrogations are now also limited to only eight hours in length. Police departments will also be required to install one-way mirrors in interrogation rooms so that outside observers can monitor the process, and to establish an internal supervising board to investigate complaints.

Critics have long decried the Japanese justice system's reliance on confessions, which they say allows prosecutors to push cases forward without collecting compelling evidence. More than 99 percent of cases in Japan [JURIST news archive] that go to court end in conviction, but defendants usually receive much lighter sentences if they confess. Some lawyers said that the new guidelines do not do enough to protect suspects, insisting that defense lawyers should be allowed to be present during interrogation. AP has more.

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