(see correction below)
On Tuesday the Japan Times carried an article (“Rights groups tell Japan to fully tape interrogations of criminal suspects”) noting how “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.”
It's a welcome statement from the UN’s 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 human rights ambassador, Hideaki Ueda, made another statement at the CAT meeting which raised eyebrows. During the meeting a delegate from Mauritius criticized Japan’s criminal justice system as being “medieval.” Ueda quickly retorted, declaring 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 less-than-veiled snickers from the other international representatives present at the forum, Ueda immediately 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.
This appeared as a letter in the Japan Times on June 13 (entitled Medieval Standard of Décor). An online comment there points out that it contains factual errors regarding remarks made by Hideaki Ueda, Japan’s human rights ambassador to the U.N. The letter notes that, according to the Tokyo Shimbun, Ueda stated that Japan was “the most advanced country” in the field of human rights. In fact after exhorting the other diplomats in the room to "shut up" the ambassador simply reiterated that Japan was “one of the most advanced countr(ies) in this field.” After interviewing blogger Shinichiro Koike about the incident it seems that the Tokyo Shimbun didn’t go the extra step to check out his story and got some of the facts wrong. While Koike has since cleared up the minor misunderstanding on his blog, the factual errors continue to spread like a disease that has now infected the pages of this paper and I regret that I was the carrier. I should have checked the facts more thoroughly before dashing off my letter. It shouldn’t have been too hard to do, after all we no longer live in the middle ages.