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Japan

What The Ghosn Affair Says About Japan And The West

The fate of disgraced auto chief Carlos Ghosn has revealed deep differences between the Japanese and Western systems of justice. And not only.

Japanese newspaper headlines when Carlos Ghosn was first arrested in November 2018
Japanese newspaper headlines when Carlos Ghosn was first arrested in November 2018
Nicolas Barré iQ

PARIS — When visiting the West this week, and starting with France on Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe knows his country's image has been damaged by the extraordinary Ghosn affair. The allegations against Renault and Nissan's former CEO — indicted on further charges again in Tokyo on Monday — have stunned and shaken even his most fervent supporters. And yet the world has also discovered through this case the particularities of a judicial system that reveals a "double-layered" Japan: Western on the outside, Japanese on the inside.

Head of a nationalist government, Abe embodies this ambivalence with his contested vision of history, his controversial reinterpretation of the Constitution toward a deeper military commitment, and his iron fist against the critical media. Japan's history in the second half of the 20th century is one of a country that successfully opened itself to globalization, but on its own terms.

The frequent mistake of Westerners was to believe that appearances, capitalism sparkling with a thousand fires in the streets of Ginza, is the equivalent of adhering to our main principles. The Japanese, however, do not hide from the "gaijin," the prevalence of their own values: "This is Japan..." they often say to apologize to the incredulous outsider in response to the application of rules that seem strange to us. This usually contributes to the infinite charm of this country but can turn into an endless torment where one is caught in the clutches of a judicial system whose foundations are far removed from ours.

This primacy of individual rights does not have the same weight.

For us, respecting the rights of the defense is essential, including knowledge of the alleged facts, access to the file, and the presence of a lawyer at every stage of the proceedings. Similarly, deprivation of liberty during the prolonged detention from week to week seems contrary to basic rights.

This primacy of individual rights, resulting from liberal philosophy, does not have the same weight in a country where culture is more valued than the preservation of societal cohesion. The world was shocked to learn that 99% of prosecutions by Japanese prosecutors resulted in the conviction of the suspect. The whole procedure is based on confessions, wrenched out of the suspect whenever and however necessary. For many Japanese, this is seen as part of the guarantee of a safer society, a supreme goal that outweighs the risks, intolerable in other freedoms, of making a judicial error.

Revealed by the Ghosn affair, this dark side of Shinzo Abe's Japan has sparked, for the first time, a lively debate in the country about its own judicial system. Ghosn has turned out to be a different kind of consensus breaker.

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Geopolitics

With The Chechen War Veterans Fighting For Ukraine — And For Revenge

They came to fight Russia, and to avenge the deaths of their loved ones and friends killed in Chechnya. Not wanting to sit in the trenches, they've found work in intelligence and sabotage.

Photo of members of the pro-Ukrainian Chechen group "Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion" posing with weapons

Members of the pro-Ukrainian Chechen group "Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion"

Lydia Mikhalchenko

At least five Chechen units are fighting for Ukraine, with more than 1,000 troops in each unit — and their number is growing.

Most of these Chechen fighters took part in the first and second Chechen wars with Russia, and were forced to flee to Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe after their defeat. Vazhnyye Istorii correspondent Lydia Mikhalchenko met with some of these fighters.

Four of the five Chechen battalions are part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and are paid the standard wages (about €4,000 per month for those on the front line) and receive equipment and supplies.

Chechen fighters say they appreciate that Ukrainian commanders don't order them to take unnecessary risks and attack objectives just to line up with an unrealistic schedule or important dates — something Russian generals are fond of doing.

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The experienced Chechen fighters have taken fewer losses than many other units. Unhappy sitting in trenches, they mostly engage in reconnaissance and sabotage, moving along the front lines. "The Russians wake up, and the commander is gone. Or he's dead," one of the fighters explains.

Some of the fighters say that the Ukrainian war is easier than their previous battles in Chechnya, when they had to sit in the mountains for weeks without supplies and make do with small stocks of arms and ammunition. Some call this a "five-star war."

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