“In the 13 months between the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, the former chief executive of Nissan, and his fleeing Japan amid allegations of improper compensation and misuse of corporate assets, the Japanese criminal justice system has been put under a microscope.
Critics in Japan have raised concerns for years, in particular about the broad powers granted to prosecutors. All of those powers have been on full display in Mr. Ghosn’s case: His pretrial detention was repeatedly extended, he was held for hours of questioning without a lawyer present, and he was repeatedly denied bail — something that is usually granted only to defendants who are prepared to confess. (He was eventually granted bail with strict conditions.) Aside from a few reforms, like the introduction of videotaped interrogations, the Japanese legal system has continued unchanged for decades. Wide prosecutorial powers have been generally accepted by the Japanese people as appropriate and effective, given extremely low crime rates in Japan.
Western concepts of justice are deeply rooted in the principles of individual liberty, checks on official power and the rule of law. In the West, these ideals are embraced and believed to be universal. The Japanese concept of justice, in contrast, is rooted in regulating individual conduct according to norms that define the relationship of the individual to society. And these norms are defined by a history that predates Western legal concepts by thousands of years.”