Medieval standard of decorum

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.

  • Takahiro Katsumi

    Thank you for this Opinion. There’s a bit of a misunderstanding due to the original source of the report (and the original author recently admitted that he mistakenly heard the interpreter said it). Amb. Ueda did not say or re-say “the most advanced country in the field” but instead said the exact same thing twice before AND after the snicker took place, because he was reading a statement. A transcript of his statement can be found here (the website is all in Japanese but I’m sure you’ll manage to find the statement.)

    That being said, Amb. Ueda’s behavior was completely unacceptable and appalling. Two days ago on 11 June, an MP from DPJ questioned the Ministry of Justice about his behavior and demanded for severe penalty, if any. The Ministry responded by saying that Ambassador’s senior official in charge gave him a “verbal warning” and that Ambassador himself regretted his behavior. It’s like grade school. All it takes is a “verbal warning” and an expression of regret. I personally asked the MP and his boss, the leader of DPJ to take on the issue more seriously.

    • johnny cassidy

      Thanks for the clarification as well as the link. Now that the CAT meeting can be clearly heard on YouTube I guess we (including The Tokyo Shimbun, the blogger it interviewed, and me) can all get a better understanding of what was said, etc . I’m sorry I didn’t do a little more fact checking beyond those two sources. It shouldn’t have been too hard to do, after all this is not the “middle ages.”