Ghosn's Family Will Seek Help From UN as Detention Drags On

(Bloomberg) -- The family of former auto executive Carlos Ghosn will seek assistance from a United Nations human rights group to secure his release from jail.

His detention in Japan has involved violations of UN norms, including dehumanizing conditions, no access to family and frequent interrogations without an attorney present, lawyers representing Ghosn’s wife Carole and his four children said at a press conference in Paris Monday. The family is appealing to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for help.

“This isn’t an action against Japan, it’s an action for human rights,” said Francois Zimeray, a lawyer for the family. “The family had hoped that reason would prevail, that right would prevail.”

Ghosn's Family Will Seek Help From UN as Detention Drags On

The 64-year-old Ghosn has been in jail since November over accusations of financial crimes, including misappropriating funds at Nissan Motor Co. He was ousted as chairman of both Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. shortly after his arrest, and has twice been denied bail. He stepped down as chairman and chief executive officer of Renault SA in January, thus losing leadership of the automotive alliance he nurtured for two decades. He has denied wrongdoing.

Zimeray said Ghosn’s stature and the public way his arrest was handled make it very difficult afterward to show his innocence. What’s more, ordinarily the prosecutors should have had evidence in hand, before the arrest, but instead they have been investigating while he’s in custody, he said, describing the methods as “hostage justice.”

A second attorney, Jessica Finelle, told reporters that Japanese procedures on detention “haven’t been adapted” to the country’s constitution, which contains human-rights protections.

While the UN group has no authority over Japanese legal matters, Zimeray said a favorable finding might act as a “wake-up call.” It could take six months to receive a response from the UN body, the attorney estimated.

The lawyers’ briefing in Paris comes after Ghosn’s new attorney in Japan, Junichiro Hironaka, filed another request for bail last week. The court hasn’t ruled yet.

Ghosn's Family Will Seek Help From UN as Detention Drags On

Critics of the Japanese legal system have seized on the Ghosn case to denounce lengthy detentions and interrogations with limited access to an attorney that they say can lead to false confessions. In 2017, Amnesty International raised concerns about “the lack of rules or regulations regarding interrogations” during pre-trial detentions.

The Japanese government responded by noting its system requires “strict judicial reviews at each stage” to balance the human rights of suspects with the needs of investigators.

Ghosn’s wife has contacted Human Rights Watch and expressed fears for her husband’s health. Two days after he appeared in court on Jan. 8, looking gaunt, he was treated by a doctor for a fever that soon subsided. French President Emmanuel Macron also told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe he felt Ghosn’s detention was “too long and too hard.”

Renault and Nissan are reviewing their finances and the pay of top managers in the wake of Ghosn’s arrest, and began a joint audit of the Dutch company that oversees their partnership. The probes have already shone a light on some controversial practices from Ghosn’s tenure at Renault, including celebrations at the Versailles palace outside Paris.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.