I am a 17-year-old high school senior aspiring to be an international lawyer. For me, nothing is more unexpected than the Western mass media’s portrayal of my country as a nation where “hostage justice” is the norm, with every citizen presumed potentially guilty.

I have learned in school that Japan is among the advanced democracies, where people are presumed innocent till proven otherwise and where the justice system is supposed to be a jealous guardian.

However, much to my consternation, of late hardly a single week passes by without Western mass media portraying Japan as a country with hostage justice, with blatant disrespect for human rights.

I understand that the Japanese judicial system hews to the principle of the presumption of innocence. These days, however, more often than not this rule seems to have been broken.

A prime example is the case of Carlos Ghosn. He was kept in detention more than 100 days, which Western mass media branded as unwarranted. They detect the intention of the Japanese prosecutors to compel the detainee to confess against his will.

This highlights a big problem that is waiting to explode, which could shake the Japanese justice system to its foundation. As it turns out, it has been found that in this country a significant number of people have been kept behind bars for many years on false charges. It seems nobody can stand up against powerful prosecutors.

A nagging simple question is whether the prosecutors would have dared to detain the Nissan savior if he had doubled as the CEO of Ford (a U.S. company).

If Japanese prosecutors think the Japanese people are nothing but subjects to view as potentially guilty, they have another thing coming. No longer is Japan an isolated island in the ocean. This country is part of the highly interconnected world community. It is high time for Japanese society and its institutions to mature in a way worthy of their democratic values.

The Ghosn case is providing the Japanese people and their judicial system a good opportunity for soul-searching and to bid sayonara to hostage justice.


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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