[EDITORIALS]Limiting the prosecutionThe move to limit the vested power of the prosecution is taking concrete shape. The Presidential Commission on Judicial Reform has provided a draft revision of the Criminal Procedure Act making it more “court-centered,” and the governing party is ready to establish an investigative body that will be in charge of corruption crimes of high-ranking civil servants.
The problem of coordinating the right to investigate with the police is facing rough going. The prosecutor-general raised objections to the commission’s draft revision and there is even a move to protest in a group action among the prosecutors.
It is confusing to watch such moves. It is difficult to decide whether the moves that are breaking out simultaneously are intended to make the prosecution powerless for political purposes, or are the prosecution’s effort to defend its vested interests. The best tack is finding the solution case by case by deciding what is good for the people.
Of the draft revision, the change the prosecutors resist the most is the reform of criminal court proceedings. According to the draft, the prosecutors’ investigation reports would not be recognized as valid evidence and prosecutors’ interrogation of defendants in the court would be abolished in order to establish a strong “court-centered” judicial system. The prosecutors say it is necessary to introduce a plea bargain system, enact a law that enables the court to punish defendants who commit perjury for obstructing court proceedings, or introduce a law that designates the punishment according to the crime committed.
Although the purpose of a “court-centered” judicial system lies in protecting the basic rights of defendants, it should not turn the court into a place for liars, or allow lawbreakers to escape through loopholes. Introducing the “court-centered” judicial system is an attempt to graft together our legal system with that of the Anglo-American system. It should not be promoted hastily.
Establishing a new investigative body to crack down wrongdoing of high-ranking officials is worrisome. Especially, it is problematic that the agency in charge of investigating high-ranking officials not only in the administration, but also in the legislature and judiciary, is placed under the president’s control. The political neutrality of the agency will be questioned. From the legal standpoint, there is an opinion that such an agency will be unconstitutional because there is no legal ground to have it under the legislature.
President Roh Moo-hyun, while he was briefed on the Ministry of Justice’s operational plan, hinted at the necessity of the new agency by saying, “The prosecution must surrender the power that goes beyond the legal sytem in compliance with the trend of change.”
We don’t know what “the power that goes beyond the legal system” means. If the prosecution is an independent institution established under the law, its right of prosecution should be respected. In this sense, it is not necessary to establish the new agency.
In a battle over investigation rights, the police want to include it in the Criminal Procedure Act as one of its investigative authorities, while the prosecution refuses to accept it, in order to defend its sole investigative right. Now, the people should find the solution. In investigating crimes related to people’s lives, the police should be allowed to exercise investigative rights to a certain degree. Depending on the progress of the change, it can be expanded gradually.
We worry over the possibility that the changes are being pursued by a political force in an attempt to have a hold on the prosecution. Also, the prosecution shouldn’t try to defend its vested rights by criticizing necessary reform as persecution of the prosecution.