Japan's human rights envoy quits over gaffe

Japan's human rights envoy stepped down Friday after facing criticism for his blunt words at a United Nations panel meeting in Geneva in May, the Foreign Ministry said.

Hideaki Ueda, 68, shouted "Shut up" at the May 22 session of the U.N. Committee against Torture, which was examining Japan's report on how it implements the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Press Secretary Kuni Sato will double as Ueda's successor, the ministry said.

The gaffe took place when Ueda countered a remark by one diplomat that Japan's criminal justice scheme depends on suspects' confessions and is similar to that of the Middle Ages.

His argument that Japan's human rights conditions are world-leading and nothing like those during the medieval period drew laughter from other participants, at which point he yelled in English, "Don't laugh. Why you are laughing? Shut up. Shut up," according to a clip uploaded on the YouTube video-sharing site.

After the incident came to light, Kenji Hiramatsu, director general of the ministry's Foreign Policy Bureau, issued a verbal warning to Ueda, saying the diplomat's expression was "not suitable in a formal occasion," ministry sources said.

Ueda was appointed as ambassador in charge of human rights and humanitarian affairs in 2008 after retiring from the ministry the previous year.