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Wednesday, April 19, 2006
POLICE HOLDING CELLS STAY
Prisoner treatment bill OK'd but ducks key beef
By MASAMI ITO
The House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that aims to improve the treatment of criminal suspects awaiting trial or sentencing but does not address the controversial police detention facilities used to hold the detainees.
Despite strong criticism from opposition parties, lawyer groups and human rights organizations, the bill easily cleared the Lower House with a majority vote from the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
Under the Criminal Procedure Law, suspects under arrest are held at detention centers controlled by the Justice Ministry. But another law, the century-old former Prison Law, permits them to be held in different detention facilities called "daiyo kangoku."
The daiyo kangoku system has been criticized both at home and abroad as a hotbed of human rights violations, including forced confessions and false charges.
While the bill allows for continued use of daiyo kangoku, it also includes amendments to improve detainee treatment, including by separating the police officers in charge of the investigations from those in charge of supervising detainees.
The bill also calls for the establishment of a third-party committee to include civilians and lawyers at prefectural police forces nationwide so detainees can voice concerns about their treatment.
Earlier this month, Diet members and human rights activists from Amnesty International Japan and other organizations who oppose the controversial system gathered to protest the bill, saying the detention facilities are out of line with international standards.
Critics say maintaining the daiyo kangoku system goes against the International Bill of Rights, which Japan ratified in 1979. It states that "anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release."
"No single country enforced this international standard -- it is a standard that Japan was also involved in (creating)," said Makoto Teranaka, secretary general of Amnesty International Japan.