[EDITORIALS]Protecting rights of the accusedThe Supreme Court ruled yesterday that any written “confession” that prosecutors submit must in most cases match the testimony the accused gives in court, for it to be considered proof.
The court’s decision represents a big change from the previous judicial precedent that fully acknowledged the validity of a written confession as evidence of guilt if the name and signature on the paper were verified ― even if the accused later denied the content of the document.
The decision is a step forward in protecting the human rights of the accused.
It emphasizes the principle that trials should proceed based on direct questioning and oral proceedings. It is true that in the past, an investigation was focused on obtaining a confession from the accused when there was not enough evidence to proceed with a case. Pressuring the accused to obtain a confession was sometimes considered the best way to resolve the matter.
Because of the ruling, investigations that use to depend on confessions will now shift toward a more scientific basis.
Prosecutors , however, are reported to be dissatisfied with yesterday’s ruling. They have reportedly expressed worries that it may now be impossible to convict high-profile politicians if their confessions now require other evidence for them to be credible. They say that no politician would ever receive political slush funds by check, and added that accused politicians typically change their testimony in court. They ask how would it be possible to indict a person following the new decision.
But even during an investigation, human rights should be protected; it is one of the obligations that is today required of prosecutors. Justice Minister Kim Seung-kyu emphasized the importance of “investigations that put the person first,” while Song Kwang-soo, the Prosecutor General, warned that “If human rights are not protected during an investigation, prosecutors will end up taking all the blame” if a case fails.
Prosecutors have to develop ways to investigate using scientific methods while respecting the rights of the accused. Manpower and organizational structures for scientific investigations, as well as equipment and budgets, should be provided.
A systematic change, such as “plea bargaining,” could be considered to complement the current system.