Police object to new oversight bill

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Police object to new oversight bill

The Prime Minister’s Office yesterday released a bill on prosecutors’ control of criminal investigations by the police, concluding a six-month squabble between police and the prosecution.

But the police are already complaining about the bill.

According to the bill, police can begin or close criminal investigations but they will be required to submit reports and evidence to the prosecution if the investigation risks violating a suspect’s human rights, such as raiding a suspect’s house or interrogating a witness.

“The motion arbitrated by the Prime Minister’s Office gives a clear standard as to how to deal with a criminal case, on the basis of protecting human rights of suspects and witnesses, not to side with either the prosecutor or the police,” Yim Jong-ryong, minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, told reporters at a briefing yesterday. “The motion enables prosecutors to check cases related to human rights of people even after the cases are closed by the police.”

The new law will take effect starting Jan. 1, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The police say the law will hamper their investigations on the assumption that police investigations regularly violate people’s human rights. They also object to a clause that allows prosecutors to interrupt police investigation and take them over, saying that prosecutors are trying to steal the police’s glory. Prosecutors have repeatedly argued that police investigations should be supervised by them to avoid human rights abuses.

The National Assembly seemed to side with prosecutors on June 28, when it was going to pass a revised bill that forces police to “be ordered and supervised in investigating all criminal cases by prosecutors.” It then made a last-minute change, saying “the details of the prosecutors’ supervision over police investigations will be delegated by presidential decree, not by the justice minister’s ordinance,” outraging prosecutors and delighting the police.

The two sides held a meeting last week, but failed to reach a compromise. The Prime Minister’s Office jumped in as arbitrator on Tuesday and made the final decision.

National Police Agency Commissioner Cho Hyun-oh officially protested the “forceful arbitration by the National Assembly” at a parliamentary meeting yesterday.

“If a police investigation violates people’s human and basic rights, it should be restricted by the Criminal Procedure Law, not by a presidential decree,” Cho said. “We can’t accept a motion that deflates the pride of the police and makes our roles dysfunctional.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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