Supplementary Report to the Fourth Periodic Report by the Government of Japan
The Buraku Liberation League Headquarters
The Buraku Liberation League (BLL) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization consisting of people who have been historically discriminated against. It has a history of struggling for more than 70 years to eliminate discrimination against and protect the rights of not only Burakumin but also other people worldwide who face discrimination. We now have 200,000 members nationwide. BLL has committed itself to providing creative ways and means of exposing racism and promoting the advancement of people and peoples suffering from discrimination around the world.
To Demand the Full Disclosure of All Evidence
and a Fair Retrial of the Sayama Case
1.The Sayama Case
The Sayama Case is a 1963 murder case involving a high school girl. On May 1, 1963, in Sayama City, Saitama Prefecture, a high school girl disappeared while on her way home from school, and a threatening letter was delivered to her house. The police failed to catch the criminal who came to collect the ransom money. Three days later the high school girl was found dead. The police were subjected to severe criticism, for they had failed to capture the suspect of another kidnapping case in Tokyo only about a month before. This case was so serious that the mistake made by the police was brought into question at the Diet, and the Director General of the Metropolitan Police Department resigned from office. Despite the police investigate the case thoroughly to maintain its dignity, it remained unsolved with no clue.
On 23 May, the police, hunting for a criminal in a prejudicial manner,
arrested Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa, of Buraku origin, not on the murder but on
another minor charge such as theft, when he was 24 years old. Mr. Ishikawa's
arrest means that citizens have deeply rooted discrimination against Buraku
believing that a criminal must be a Burakumin.
For more than a month, Mr. Ishikawa was detained in the custodial facility of the police station, a "substitute prison" (Daiyo Kangoku), on the murder of a high-school girl and interrogated by the police day after day. He denied the charge and insisted on his innocence but allegedly was forced to falsely confess "guilty" on the 29th day during a period of time in which the police forbid his counsel's visitation. Mr. Ishikawa was investigated by the police extended over a long period of time. In addition, the police convinced Mr. Ishikawa that his older brother was the criminal, and they threatened to arrest him unless Mr. Ishikawa confessed. Furthermore, the police allegedly persuaded him to confess to the crime by telling Mr. Ishikawa that a confession would allow him to be released from prison in 10 years. Mr. Ishikawa was sentenced to death in the first ruling and to life imprisonment in the second and third ruling. He quickly filed a plea for a retrial and has been demanding a retrial over the past 20 years. At present, he is demanding a retrial with the Tokyo High Court. Mr. Ishikawa, who was paroled after the imprisonment for 31 years and seven months, continues to plead his innocence.
2.The Evidence Shows Mr. Ishikawa's Innocence
(a) Mr. Ishikawa's confession is not true
There are several aspects of the Sayama Case which are questionable
from the standpoint of common sense.
There are no fingerprints of Mr. Ishikawa on the threatening letter and many other pieces of evidence that they say he confessed to having held. The fingerprints of policemen and the older brother of the high school girl have been found.
Although the girl's head was injured and bled, no blood stains have
been found at the location where the murder is said to have taken place
or at the location where the body is said to have been hidden.
It is said that the girl was stopped on her way home and went into a wooded area following after Mr. Ishikawa, who was a complete stranger to her. It is inconceivable that the girl, a very active high-school student who loved sports, would follow after a complete stranger who said, "Come with me. I have something to talk to you about." Mr. Onagi, a farmer who was working in a farm only 20 meters away from the thicket considered to be the scene of the murder bore witness that he did not hear a scream or see anyone there.
(b) The handwriting is completely different
The agreement of the writing in the ransom note with Mr. Ishikawa's writing was presented as key evidence to obtain a ' guilty' verdict. As one can see from the pictures comparing the blackmail letter and Mr. Ishikawa's writing, it is obvious that these two writing samples are completely different. As Mr. Ishikawa could not even finish a elementary school and get enough education due to discrimination against Buraku, he did not have the ability to write kanji (Chinese characters, some of which are taught in the second grade at elementary school) inspite of his age. He usually did not write any letter or sentence and it is impossible for anyone who can hardly write or read to write a threatening letter. Mr. Ishikawa's counsel asked a Japanese philological scholar and former staff members of the Criminal Identification Section to give expert opinions on these handwriting styles and submitted to the court their evaluations that the writing styles were different and it is impossible for Mr. Ishikawa to write a letter.
(c) The evidence might be fabricated
As Mr. Ishikawa's confession, the police insist that girl's own fountain pen was found at Mr. Ishikawa's house and that this is evidence of his guilt. They say that Mr. Ishikawa took this pen home after he killed her, but there are no fingerprints on this pen either. Moreover, the pen's ink was different from the one she used, and her fingerprints have not been found on the pen. When tens of policemen had searched his house twice, the pen was not found. Nearly two months later, the pen was discovered. That is, the case happened in May 1 and the pen was found in June 26. During this period, the police had searched his house twice thoroughly. One of policemen who had participated in the initial searches of Mr. Ishikawa's house testified, "When we searched his house, we didn't find any pen. I wondered at hearing that they found the pen later." The counsel insists that this pen which the police confiscated is highly questionable evidence of guilt.
(d) Need to conduct an examination of a witness for a fair trial and to start a retrial
Mr. Ishikawa and his legal representatives demand a retrial based on such evidence which shows rational doubt about the 'guilty' verdict. At first, his legal representatives demand to conduct an investigation for fact-finding, such as interrogation of Mr. Ishikawa himself and expert witnesses. We are firmly convinced that an invariable principle of a criminal suit should be 'the suspect must always be given the benefit of the doubt', and that "facilitating innocence" is the very principle on which the retrial system ought to be based. We urge the Tokyo High Court, to start a retrial of the Sayama Case in accordance with such a principle. Above all, we demand that it is indispensable to conduct an open trial including an examination of a witness and an inspection of the scene in order to guarantee a fair trial.
(e) Public opinion continues to grow in favor of demanding a fair retrial of the Sayama Case
As we consider that Sayama Case is a false charge due to discrimination
against Burakumin, we have devoted to struggling to prove Mr. Ishikawa's
innocence as persons fighting for elimination of discrimination against
Burakumin. At the same time, we have appealed to public opinion that a
false charge due to discrimination such as this case and an unfair trial
are the human rights issues for all citizens.
Many citizens feel that there are reasonable doubts about the 'guilty' verdict in the Sayama Case. With regard to the Sayama Case, however, neither examination of a witness nor inspection of the scene has been conducted for 24 years. They conduct only documental trial and the evidence shows his innocence has been rejected. It is obvious that Mr. Ishikawa has not been guaranteed the rights to fair trial. To express support for this action taken by Mr. Ishikawa, his counsel and the BLL, approximately 1.30 million people signed a petition demanding a retrial for the Sayama Case. Furthermore, in response to the demand for a fair trial by many prominent persons including scholars, writers, movie directors, actors and musicians, more than 1.20 million people signed the petition including more than 610 chief executives of local governments, which consists of nearly 20% of the whole local governments in Japan. Public opinion continues to grow in favor of demanding a fair retrial of the Sayama Case.
3. The Prosecutors reject to disclose all evidence
The counsel for the Sayama Retrial Case submitted new evidence to the
Tokyo High Court and demanded a retrial. In addition, we repeatedly have
submitted new evidence to and engaged in negotiations with the Tokyo District
High Court and the Tokyo High Prosecutors Office demanding the disclosure
of evidence for a fair trial. The counsel has demanded access to evidence
that is believed to exist based on statements by the persons concerned
and newspaper reports at that time. For instance, then the staff at the
Criminal Identification Section of Saitama prefectural police testified
that they carried out a bloodstain inspection called a luminol reaction
inspection in the thicket considered to be the scene of the murder. The
prosecutors, however, have not admitted the possession of such a report
on the results of a bloodstain inspection and have not disclosed this
information. The legal representatives of the defendant do not have accurate
and complete information about the evidence in the police record. Mr.
Ishikawa's legal representatives request in particular the disclosure
of a list of the relevant evidence. However, the prosecutors have continued
to deny this request, arguing that the list should be kept secret to protect
the privacy of the relevant persons.
Mr. Ishikawa's legal representatives request to have concrete consultations between prosecutors and counsel to discuss how to disclose a list of the relevant evidence and for this, the protection of privacy will be fully implemented. Vague and general use of privacy concerns would result in a situation where the entire police record could not be made available to the public. This is unjustifiable for prosecutors to reject a disclosure of evidence.
In the Sayama Case, particularly, it is inconceivable that disclosure of evidence could result in the "destruction of evidence" since the request for a retrial is being made 35 years after the verdict was first rendered.
On the occasion of negotiations between prosecutors and counsel on September 8, 1998, Mr. Masakazu Aida, a public prosecutor of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, admitted that they possess many materials of evidence which not have disclosed yet and a list of relevant evidence. In other words, prosecutors possess many materials of evidence that counsel and Mr. Ishikawa have not had access to them yet. If only the prosecutors are allowed to have access to this information, it is blatantly unfair. The prosecutors reject to disclose even a list of relevant evidence.
4.The disclosure of evidence is a right guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of defense. We understand that Article 14 (3)(b) of the Covenant guarantees that the legal representatives of the defendant should have access to all relevant material and evidence. Regarding the Sayama Case, they have not disclosed all evidence and this means that they do not observe the Covenant and its spirit.
On 4 November 1993, the Human Rights Committee at its forty-ninth session,
having considered the third periodic report of Japan (CCPR/C/70/Add.1
and Corr. 1 and 2), adopted the following comments and recommendations
to put the situation right:
" The legal representatives of the defendant do not have access to all relevant material in the police record, in order to enable them to prepare the defense."
We believe that the following point raised by Mr. Lallah at the1279th Meeting applies to the demand for a retrial in the Sayama Case: " If things are kept secret in the police records from the defense, how does he prepare his defense?"
With regard to Article 14 (3)(b) of the Covenant which guarantees that
the legal representatives of the defendant should have access to all relevant
material and evidence, Mr. Lallah said, "we have Article 14(3)(b)
which says that the accused must have time and facilities for the preparation
for his defense." In Mr. Ishikawa's case, his counsel' opportunity
to have access to all relevant material and evidence in the police record
is not fully guaranteed.
In addition, Ms. Evatt made the following comment at the1279th Meeting: " Mr. Lallah has mentioned that an essential element of a fair trial is that the accused and his legal counsel have access to all necessary documents and evidence, including the file in possession of the prosecution. Now, there are laws that provide for this, but we are informed that the defense must ask for specific documentation of which the defense may already have knowledge. And that's not good enough because the defense may not know of all the material in possession of the prosecution. ... It seems to me that mistrial can occur when evidence of value to the defense is not disclosed because there is no specific request for it due to lack of knowledge."
We consider these comments by the members of the Committee to be extremely
As pointed out above, although the prosecutors admit that they possess many materials of evidence which have not disclosed yet and a list of relevant evidence, his counsel cannot even know the content of them. They do not know at all what was collected by the police at the time of the case and what the prosecutors possess now. The prosecutors have rejected to disclose such a list.
The prosecutors insist on that we need to make a concrete request for a disclosure. But as Ms. Evatt mentioned, because the attorneys do not know about all material in possession of the prosecution, they cannot make a specific request for it. Even we request the prosecutors to disclose some of evidence with the information from newspapers, the prosecutors often deny the possession of such evidence.
We firmly convince that they should disclose to the counsel all material and evidence in relation to the Sayama Case possessed by the prosecutors but, to begin with at least, they should disclose a list of relevant evidence to the attorneys and inform them what material and evidence they possess.
From March to April in 1998, we invited to Japan Mr. Stephen Aronson, a counsel demanding a retrial for the Marshall Case in Canada. He told us about a significant case in Canada concerning false charges which demonstrated the importance of the full disclosure of evidence. This case ultimately led to the establishment of a system for the disclosure of all evidence in Canada. At symposiums held in Tokyo, Kyoto and Fukuoka, Japan, we were able to inform participants that adequate opportunities to access evidence should be guaranteed for all citizens in Japan based on the international human rights standards.
In response to comments made by the Human Rights Committee in 1993 and to the current situation of procedures for disclosure of all material and evidence based on the international human rights standard, legal representatives of the Sayama Case strongly urge the Tokyo High Prosecutors Office to disclose all evidence and records of police interrogation. Also, we urge a judge of the Tokyo High Court in charge of this case to call on the Tokyo High Prosecutors Office to disclose them. However, no action has been taken so far with regard to the plea made by the counsel of the Sayama Case.
In response to comments made by the Committee in 1993, the Fourth Periodic Report says that " The defendant and defense counsel are thus guaranteed adequate opportunities to access evidence necessary for the preparation of the trial." In fact, however, with regard to the Sayama Case, the recommendations by the Committee are not being realized and "adequate opportunities to access evidence necessary" is not guaranteed. The fundamental problem is that the prosecutors do not inform the counsel of all evidence possessed by them. We consider that, first of all, a list of relevant evidence should be disclosed to the counsel at any procedural stage.
Regarding the Sayama Case which the attorney strongly have demanded
repeatedly to disclosure a list of relevant evidence, we urge to disclose
The Japan Federation of the Bar Association proposes taking legislative measures to allow for disclosure of the evidence held by the police relating to the trial (See the counter-report by the Japan Federation of the Bar Association). It also proposes that a list of evidence first should be disclosed.
In addition, many jurists point out that the reject of the Prosecutors Office to disclose all evidence is inconsistent with the idea of a retrial system. In Japan the discovery of new evidence is grounds for requesting a retrial. The reject to disclose evidence possessed by the Prosecutors Office contradicts the requirement to submit new evidence for a retrial whether or not there is the possibility that there is evidence which could cast a doubt on the conviction (i.e. evidence which becomes the basis for seeking a retrial).
It is widely recognized that the reject to disclose evidence is one
of the causes of false charges, as seen in cases where misjudgments were
proved. In the Matsuyama case, for instance, disclosed evidence proved
that the statement of a detainee in the same detention cell at the police
station forced the arrested person to falsely confess being guilty. In
the another famous case, the Matsukawa case, notes proving the alibi of
the accused person who was sentenced to death were hidden by the Prosecutor.
These two cases were retried and the defendants were eventually acquitted.
In Japan we are facing several problems in the judicial system, including the substitute prison system (Daiyo Kangoku) which sometimes leads to false charges. In fact, there are many people who have applied for a retrial of their cases while pleading their innocence. Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa is one of these people.
However, in many retrial cases, the Prosecutors Offices have not agreed to disclose all the evidence they possess, in spite of the counsel' requests. In his concluding remarks after consideration of the Third Periodic Report of Japan, Mr. Lallah expressed concern regarding the minimum guarantees in the determination of any criminal charge stipulated in Article 14 (3) of the Covenant as follows: "I really think there has been a misunderstanding by the Japanese delegation of the meaning of these various articles." The interpretation of the Prosecutors Office, as well as the Ministry of Justice, of the meaning of the Covenant should be questioned.
Based on the comments and recommendations of the Human Rights Committee in addition to the Covenant and Japan's National Plan of Action for the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (The government will enhance human rights education for prosecutors), we have been sending our delegates every week in order to submit to the Prosecutors Office signatures requesting that prosecutors sincerely deal with the Sayama case. It would go against justice to ignore the long years of appeal by Mr. Ishikawa and his counsel. 35 years have passed since the Sayama case occurred. Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa, who was convicted as a kidnapper and murderer, has been insisting on his innocence and longing for a full investigation leading to the truth. It is not sufficient for the Prosecutors Office to refuse to disclose evidence for the past 35 years because of their anticipation of ' possible obstacles to the investigation' and 'the privacy of people concerned'.
We, hereby, strongly request that the Tokyo High Court investigate all the facts in order to guarantee a fair trial and that the Prosecutors guarantee the counsel access to all the evidence in relation to the Sayama case.
The Main Evidence that Legal Representatives
for the Sayama Case demands to disclose
1. The report on a luminol reaction inspection on the scene of the murder
Then the staff at the Criminal Identification Section of Saitama
prefectural police testified that they carried out a bloodstain inspection
called a luminol reaction inspection in the thicket considered to be the
scene of the murder as Mr. Ishikawa's confession. Despite the fact that
the chief of the criminal department of the Ministry of Justice once admitted
the existence of the report on this bloodstain inspection, the Prosecutors
Office denies this. The high-school girl's head was injured and bled.
Furthermore, in the hole, where Mr. Ishikawa confessed to hide the body
in, they also conducted a luminol reaction inspection. Therefore, it is
believe that they have never conducted it in the scene of the murder.
Whether the confession about the scene of the murder is true or not is the crucial issue over the credibility of the whole confession. A farmer who was engaging in farmwork near the scene of the murder bore witness that he did not hear a scream or see anyone there. With this testimony, the result of a bloodstain inspection is a crucial point to this case.
2. The photo of a footprint
A footprint was detected at the scene where a criminal came to collect the ransom money. They made and submitted a plaster cast of the detected footprint but the photo of the footprint has not been submitted. The police record says that they took photos and showed them to Mr. Ishikawa during the investigation. The agreement of the footprint with socks founded at Mr. Ishikawa's house was presented as key evidence to obtain a ' guilty' verdict and this is the crucial issue.
3. A list of relevant evidence
In addition, the materials of evidence, including the report on investigations
which the Prosecutors Office once admitted the existence, have not been
disclosed yet. The police forced Mr. Ishikawa, who did not have the ability
to write and read, to practice letters copying out writing from the threatening
letter as sent by a criminal.
The counsel also have demanded to disclose the papers they forced him to copy the letters by hands many times. The Prosecutors Office keeps replying that these practice papers have not existed as well as a report on a luminol reaction inspection on the scene of the murder and photos of a footprint. The counsel cannot make sure whether these evidence exist or not and they do not know if there are other existence.
The counsel has demanded the full disclosure of all relevant evidence. With regard to a list of relevant evidence, the Prosecutors Office and a chief of criminal department of the Ministry of Justice admit the existence. However, they have continued to reject to disclose them, by arguing that the list should be confidential to protect the privacy of the relevant persons.