EDITORIAL: Wise decision of highest court on disclosure of detainee records: The Asahi Shimbun


The Supreme Court has issued a well-reasoned and common-sense decision on an inmate’s request for medical examination and treatment records he received while in detention, overturning long-standing government policy of non-disclosure.

The decision amounted to a scathing indictment from the government, which had dismissed the request in accordance with its policy, as well as the district and high courts which upheld the state’s position on the matter.

In the June 15 ruling, the highest court overturned the High Court’s decision and granted the man’s request to disclose details of the medical treatment he received while in detention.

The man said he needed the records to explain to an outside doctor the dental treatment he received while in detention which failed to treat his problem. He filed a complaint after his request for disclosure was denied by authorities.

Personal information “relating to criminal trials” is excluded from the disclosure rule under the law governing the treatment of personal information held by administrative bodies.

The main bone of contention in the trial was whether records of medical treatment provided in penitentiary facilities fall into this category of information.

The Supreme Court said no. We applaud the decision, which is based on a careful and fair assessment of the benefits of such disclosure and the importance of informed consent in medical treatment.

The government’s argument for denying the disclosure request was far from convincing. He argued that the purpose of medical treatment for detainees and prisoners is to maintain and manage their health, so the records of such care are closely linked to criminal trials. It was little more than a chicane.

Granting detainees and prisoners access to records of the medical treatment they have received is essential to protect their rights and interests under the principle that people have the right to know what kind of personal information is held by them. government organizations and how they are used.

It can be assumed that many other similar requests have been made in the past. But the government has systematically rejected these requests. Its policy has proven to be a major obstacle to efforts to clarify the responsibility of detention centers in cases where detainees and prisoners have suffered injuries or deterioration of their health.

The government should immediately change the way it deals with these matters in accordance with the ruling.

The presiding judge Katsuya Uga, an expert in administrative law, noted in a supplementary opinion that guaranteeing access of persons detained in penitentiary establishments to their health information is “a world standard”. He also referred to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, adopted in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly.

The government has done a lot to emphasize the importance of international cooperation in the investigation of cross-border crimes and the suppression of the financing of terrorism. He also insisted on promulgating new laws to achieve these goals.

On the other hand, it has shown reluctance to implement international human rights treaties and rules, including the International Bill of Human Rights and the Nelson Mandela Rules.

The government must realize that it cannot earn international trust if it adheres only to international standards that suit its policies and programs.

The health care services and medical treatment provided to those detained in detention centers and prisons should be up to general societal standards. As admitted by the Justice Department, however, the national system is riddled with problems in this regard.

The ministry needs to reflect on the process leading up to the trial and the issues it raised while stepping up efforts for better storage and disclosure of medical records. It should also do more to improve the quality of health care and medical treatment provided in prisons.

These requirements should also apply to establishments where foreign nationals subject to expulsion are detained.

–L’Asahi Shimbun, June 17


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