UN Panel Decides Japan Violated Carlos Ghosn's Human Rights

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The United Nation Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a report on Monday stating that Carlos Ghosn’s extended detention in Japan was an unacceptable infringement on his rights — adding that the matter would be forwarded to the UN’s rapporteur on torture, cruel and other inhuman or degrading treatment.

While there are undoubtedly larger examples of human rights abuses inside the automotive industry — Volkswagen’s apparent reliance on Chinese slave labor springs to mind — Japan’s bizarre treatment of the former head of the Renault-Nissan alliance garnered plenty of attention. Accused of financial crimes relating to the Japanese automaker he formally chaired and was once praised for saving, Ghosn was subjected to repeated arrests and strict limitations on who he was allowed to contact. Despite his having fled the country in a form befitting of a secret agent, the UN is still claiming his treatment ahead of the repeatedly delayed trial was tantamount to abuse.

“The repeated arrest of Mr. Ghosn appears to be an abuse of process intended to ensure that he remained in custody,” Bloomberg reported the UN the panel as saying, noting that Mr. Ghosn had been arrested at least twice for the same alleged crime. “This revolving pattern of detention was an extrajudicial abuse of process that can have no legal basis under international law.”

From Bloomberg:

Ghosn and former Nissan director Greg Kelly were arrested in Tokyo on Nov. 19, 2018, and accused of underreporting the former chairman’s compensation. Both have denied wrongdoing. Additional charges were filed later accusing Ghosn of using company assets improperly, which he has denied.

Ghosn made a daring escape from Japan to Lebanon hidden inside a large box aboard a private jet in late December. It was, Ghosn argued defiantly in Beirut later, the only way for him to avoid what he called trumped-up charges of financial misdeeds concocted with the help of his former Nissan colleagues. His arrest and removal as chairman of Nissan, Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. shook the foundations of the automaking alliance he built and triggered management and operational turmoil.

“We welcome a courageous decision from an independent and respected authority, that undeniably establishes Mr. Ghosn’s detention was arbitrary, he was denied his right to impartial justice, and his treatment was unfair and degrading.” his lawyer, Francois Zimeray, said in a statement.

The UN panel went on to describe what it fears may have been coordinated attempts by Japanese prosecutors and media to make the ousted executive look guilty ahead of his trial during a series of arrests in 2019 and 2018. It also expressed concerns that he was subjected to repeated hours-long interrogations while having little-to-no opportunities to engage in confidential talks with his own legal team. Ghosn and his family had also previously made claims that Nissan had worked closely with the Japanese prosecution to make him look guilty as part of an elaborate corporate coup. It was their assertion that he would not receive fair treatment under the law, which is ultimately why he fled the country rather than await trial.

The UN acknowledged that none of this absolved him from criminal wrongdoing and that it could not condone his daring escape. That said, it still recommended there being an independent investigation into the circumstances of Ghosn’s detention and noted he probably has a right to sue for damages.

“Taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to accord Mr. Ghosn an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law,” the panel explained.

While Nissan has declined to comment on the matter, the Japanese government expressed its dismay — calling the UN’s decision “totally unacceptable” offering no legal obligations. It suggested that the rights panel got things wrong when it claimed Ghosn was arrested four times without being brought before a judge and that delays in his trial were unavoidable.

Carlos is still hiding out in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan, so it’s unlikely that the UN’s comments will impact what happens to him. But it could help the ex-Green Beret and son (Michael and Peter Taylor) that helped smuggle him out of Japan. They’re currently being held in a Massachusetts jail fighting possible extradition to Japan, something their lawyers have claimed would open them up to unfair treatment and possibly torture. The UN’s assessment of Ghosn’s treatment may add weight to those assertions.

[Image: Plamen Galabov/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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3 of 19 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on Nov 24, 2020

    Not surprising. But in a way, this illustrates a sad truth about our world today: people with money and connections are treated differently. If Ghosn was poor, he'd still be rotting in that jail. And as far as UN is concerned, if Ghosn wasn't connected, do you think the UN would even have looked into this?

    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Nov 24, 2020

      "people with money and connections are treated differently." You ain't seen nothing yet. Welcome the Great Reset you just voted for.

  • Indi500fan Indi500fan on Nov 25, 2020

    I love that pic of Carlos. It's like he's playing Judge Smails in a remake of Caddyshack.

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
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  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.