In the June 4 article, “Rights groups tell Japan to fully tape interrogations of criminal suspects,” reporter Tomohiro Osaki notes that “the U.N. Committee against Torture issued a statement pointing out that Japan’s criminal justice system should do away with its traditionally strong reliance on confessions by suspects, and demanded it implement ‘safeguards such as electronic recordings of the entire interrogation process’ to prevent wrongful convictions.”

That’s a welcome statement from the U.N Committee against Torture (CAT). I just wonder if Japan will take it to heart right away.

According to reports on Twitter and in the Tokyo Shimbun, Japan’s representative at the CAT meeting, Hideaki Ueda, made a statement that raised eyebrows. During the meeting a delegate from Mauritius criticized Japan’s criminal justice system as “medieval.” Ueda retorted that when it came to human rights Japan was “the most advanced country in the world.”

Recognizing that he misspoke, the Japanese official soon corrected himself, saying that Japan was rather “one of the most advanced countries in the world” on human rights issues.

When the gaffe earned snickers from the other international representatives present at the forum, Ueda fired back with a less-than-diplomatic “Shut up!” and chided the group for laughing.

The Japanese representative’s response seemed almost medieval in light of modern standards of international decorum. When state officials from anywhere behave so badly with the eyes of the world on them, I shudder to think what goes in their corner of the globe when no one is looking.

j.t. cassidy

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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