Ghosn: UN panel says Japan violated rights of former Nissan chief

A UN panel of human rights experts called Japan’s arrest of former Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn ‘arbitrary’ and urged Japan’s government to pay him reparations.

Former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn turned international fugitive last year when he fled Japan where he faced trial for alleged financial misconduct [File: Hussein Malla/AP]

A panel of human rights experts working with the United Nations said on Monday that former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was wrongly arrested in Japan and has urged “compensation” and “other reparations” for him from the Japanese government.

In an opinion published on Monday, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Ghosn’s arrest in Japan in late 2018 was “arbitrary” and called on Japan’s government to “take the necessary steps to remedy the situation” of Ghosn “without delay”. A determination of whether detention is arbitrary is based on various criteria, including international norms of justice.

While Ghosn has fled Japanese justice, the opinion could weigh on minds in courtrooms in the country and beyond – such as over the possible extradition of two Americans, Michael Taylor and his son Peter, who Japanese prosecutors say helped the former executive sneak out of Japan.

The five-member working group, which is made up of independent experts, called on Japan to ensure a “full and independent investigation” of Ghosn’s detention, and asked the government “to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights”.

“The Working Group considers that, 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,” its 17-page opinion said.

The panel noted a string of allegations from Ghosn and his representatives, such as that he was subjected to solitary confinement and long interrogations at day or night, and denied access to court pleadings. His team claimed that interrogations of Ghosn were aimed to extract a confession.

The Japanese diplomatic mission in Geneva was not immediately available for comment.

The panel said Japan’s government, which is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, had argued previously that it had not violated its commitments to the pact, and that Ghosn was not held arbitrarily. The government noted that prosecutors in Japan only launch criminal proceedings if there is a “high probability of conviction” based on legitimate evidence.

Francois Zimeray, a lawyer for Ghosn, said: “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.”

The panel noted the “partially dissenting opinion” of one of its members, international law professor Roland Adjovi, who found that Ghosn had been deprived of his liberty but it was not yet clear that this was done arbitrarily.

Ghosn, a 66-year-old with French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, led Japanese carmaker Nissan for 20 years, rescuing it from near-bankruptcy.

He was arrested in November 2018 on charges of breach of trust, in misusing company assets for personal gain and violating securities laws in not fully disclosing his compensation. He denies wrongdoing.

In December, he fled Japan to Lebanon while out on bail awaiting trial, meaning his case will not go on in Japan. Interpol has issued a wanted notice but his extradition from Lebanon is unlikely.

Ghosn has accused Nissan and Japanese officials of conspiring to bring him down to block a fuller integration of Nissan with its French alliance partner Renault SA of France.

The opinions of the working group, which was created nearly 30 years ago by a United Nations-backed human rights body, are not binding on states but aim to hold them up to their human rights commitments. Among its past rulings involved the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was likewise deemed to have had his human rights violated.

Ghosn’s lawyers filed a petition with the working group in March 2019, appealing to its role to look into cases in which governments are alleged to have wrongly detained individuals under agreed international human rights conventions.

Its members declined to speak to reporters about the opinion, the UN human rights office said.

Source: AP