[EDITORIALS]Human rights and interrogation

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[EDITORIALS]Human rights and interrogation

Justice, it seems, is advancing: The interrogation rooms at prosecutors’ offices have been remodeled to better protect the rights of those being questioned. Four prosecution offices in Seoul, Incheon and Suwon have began trial operations of newly remodeled interrogation rooms, including those for female and juvenile witnesses and suspects.
The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office said it will expand such installations nationwide, indicating that the prosecutors’ investigatory practices will have to change.
These changes are welcome, as they can prevent rights violations of those being questioned.
The prosecution has established three types of interrogation rooms, depending on the nature of a case and the positions of those being questioned. In the new facilities, the process of questioning can be monitored externally, and there are video and audio recording facilities. The rooms’ design follows the structure of a courtroom, so that an attorney can sit next to a suspect.
This important change will not only enhance the rights of suspects, but also the trustworthiness of investigations.
Equally praiseworthy is the introduction of special rooms designed for the victims of such sensitive cases as sexual crimes, in order to protect their rights. In the past, a suspect and a victim were often cross-questioned. Recently, two middle school girls in Milyang suffered gang rape. During the probes, the police lined up 40 suspects and made the victims identify the rapists, face to face. Astonishing is too mild a word for the procedure used in that case.
Now, one-way mirrors will be used so that juvenile and female victims can identify suspects from outside.
The Supreme Court lately ruled that a written testimony sourced by prosecutors will not be acceptable as evidence if the suspect rejects it at a court. The prosecution’s remodeling of interrogation rooms has been ongoing for a long time: the Supreme Court’s ruling added further momentum.
Even so, the inevitable concerns are arising: Some in the courts and the prosecution worry that it will now be difficult to investigate political corruption charges. But this is just a detail. The prosecution must make the remodeling project an opportunity to heighten the validity of their questioning activities and to improve rights protection during interrogations.
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