On 20-21 May in Geneva, Switzerland, a report by the Japanese government was presented for the UN Committee Against Torture.

At the end of the two-day session, Mr Hideaki Ueda, Ambassador in charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, suddenly lost his temper, shouting at committee members and demanding that they “Shut up!!!” What on earth could have caused the ambassador to raise his voice?

– Frustrated committee members

In the final hour on the last day, the representative from Mauritius laid criticism on Japan’s judicial system. Previously, committee members had brought up issues with interrogations in Japan, such as the fact that suspects may not have a legal representative present, and there is no time limit. But because the Japanese delegation continued to brush them off with disingenuous responses, the members were getting frustrated.

– Japan’s justice system is “medieval”

At this point, the Mauritian delegate commented on the lack of transparency in Japan’s justice system, describing it as “medieval”. And furthermore, that Japanese criminal proceedings needed to meet international standards.

– “Don’t laugh! Shut up!!!”

Ambassador Ueda made his rebuttal to this, saying:

“Certainly, Japan is not in the middle age. We are one of the most advanced country [sic] in this field.”

Upon which uncontrollable giggling began to spread through the conference room. Was it the strength of his claim, or even that Japan demographically tends towards middle age? In reaction to this, the ambassador became decidedly prickly. “Don’t laugh! Why you are laughing? Shut up. Shut up!!” he barked. Cue awkward silence…

– Recommendations of the Committee Against Torture

According to Mr Shinichiro Koike who attended as a member of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, the Committee Against Torture made a recommendation to the Japanese government on 31 May to regulate the length of interrogations and the presence of counsel. The video below sparked a storm of disapproval, with calls for Ambassador Ueda’s resignation.

Perhaps English teachers in Japan ought to stress that phrases like “shut up” don’t come across as particularly professional…

[ Read in Japanese ]