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Japan passes major revisions to criminal code

[JURIST] In the most thorough revision of Japan's penal and criminal procedure codes since their enactment in 1907, the House of Councillors on Wednesday lengthened prison terms for many felonies, increased the statute of limitations, enhanced victims' rights, and codified gang rape as a crime distinct from and more serious than rape. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun's summary of the changes and the public reaction to them, "the revisions may fall short of the expectations of crime victims and those working in the judiciary." Agence France Presse suggests that the revisions were made in response to public concern about increased crime--arrests were up nearly 10% in 2003--but notes that Japan still has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. The revisions will take effect within three months of their publication in official gazettes. An outline of Japan's criminal procedure system as it stood prior to yesterday's revisions is available from the Library of Congress's Country Studies Series.

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