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Japanese editorial excerpts -3-.

TOKYO, Oct. 29 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the Japanese press:

STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS (IHT/Asahi as translated from the Japanese-language Asahi Shimbun's editorial published Oct. 28)

In July next year, the statute of limitations will run out on an unsolved robbery-murder case that occurred in a supermarket in the western Tokyo city of Hachioji in 1995. Two part-time employees, one of whom was a senior high school girl, and the teenager's friend, were fatally shot.

Even if the suspect is caught some day, the individual cannot be prosecuted after the statute of limitations expires. In 1995, the prescriptive period for the Hachioji case was 15 years. But the law was revised in 2005, and the period was extended to 25 years for crimes punishable by death.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Keiko Chiba instructed the Legislative Council to explore further legal revisions.

Under the statute of limitations, the state effectively allows felons to go scot-free. Organizations of crime victims have been clamoring for the elimination of statutes of limitations for vicious crimes, arguing that the 2005 revision was insufficient. The public has been watching with interest how the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama handles this matter.

Since anyone can become a victim of crime, the entire society needs to show its commitment to bringing every criminal to justice. The United States and some European countries have done away with the statutes of limitations on some types of crimes. In Japan, too, it is time for the government and the Diet to take a good, hard look at the situation.

This, however, must be accompanied by reinforced measures against false accusations. Imagine being suddenly arrested for a decades-old crime you did not commit. Any evidence that can establish your alibi at the time of the crime is probably long since gone, and you may not be able to find anyone who can bear witness to your innocence.

Before the Hatoyama administration came into being, a Justice Ministry study group said in its report in July that the statute of limitations should be abolished for murder cases. At the time, the Democratic Party of Japan was leaning toward a system that would enable judges to suspend statutes of limitations at the request of prosecutors.

In the sense that the DPJ requires this judicial procedure, the party's proposal is more ''cautious'' than the Justice Ministry's report. But one problem with the DPJ proposal is that the evidence presented at the time of the procedure could determine the direction of the case under investigation.

Some hit-and-run victims demand that these crimes also be included in reviewing statutes of limitations. Other issues to be discussed include what to do with cases in which the statute of limitations deadline is nearing and how the investigation system should be changed.

(Oct. 29)
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 2, 2009
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