The power to probe

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The power to probe

Prosecutors and police often clash over civil investigations. Prosecutors want to maintain their leadership over sensitive probes, while police want the ability to initiate investigations on their own.

Under Article 196 of the Criminal Procedure Law, the police must investigate under the leadership of prosecutors. In other words, police can start and close a case under the prosecutor’s order.

The National Assembly’s special committee on judicial reform agreed to modify the criminal law to grant police authority to start a case on their own and liberate them from the obligation to follow orders from prosecutors. The revised legislation, after going through coordination with the government, will be put to a vote in the National Assembly by the end of the month.

Changes in the power to investigate is very important because they directly affect the human rights of the public.

We believe that prosecutors are endowed with excessive power during investigations, which can become persecutions. In order to ensure balance and fairness in law enforcement, some of the prosecutors’ authority should be shared with the police.

In fact, there is no reason for prosecutors to get involved in commanding police in traffic accident cases. Police can deal with simple cases of determining fines and punishment that are in violation of traffic laws.

The police are also capable of taking control over minor criminal cases like domestic violence. The prosecutors will then be able to concentrate their resources on bigger public cases.

Such changes, however, should take place after broad consensus is established through a thorough public debate. Otherwise, various unintended consequences could ensue. We must first ask the public if they feel safe in leaving authority over criminal cases in the hands of the police. The police, with a manpower force of over 100,000 and an intelligence network, could be capable of handling domestic and criminal cases.

As a matter of fact, the prosecution and police set up a council to find ways to coordinate authority in investigations in 2004, but failed to reach a consensus even after 15 meetings. It is that subtle and sensitive of an issue.

However, it should not be seen as power struggle between the two law enforcement agencies or develop into a political issue. It must be dealt with only from the perspective of enhancing public service and human rights.

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