Human rights watchdog to be empowered

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Human rights watchdog to be empowered

The Blue House is beginning to consider adjusting the investigatory rights of the prosecution and police, starting with ordering government agencies to better implement the recommendation of the country’s human rights watchdog.

Adjusting investigatory rights has been named one of the major tasks of prosecution reform. Prosecutors would hand over investigation rights to police while maintaining only secondary or supplementary investigatory rights related to indictment and maintenance of a public prosecution. In the current system, prosecutors have the exclusive right to indict, investigate and seek warrants.

On Thursday, Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, announced President Moon Jae-in’s orders to give more power to the National Human Rights Commission’s ability to advise and make recommendations to government agencies and branches.

Under the Park Geun-hye administration, there were no special reports released by the human rights commission, and there was no way to check how well each agency or governmental branch carried out its recommendations.

Under this new order, an index of how well these agencies follow its human rights recommendations will be set up and used in its evaluation process.

“Looking at cases of human rights violations based on each agency, those that occur within police departments and detention facilities are the majority,” said Cho. “There is relatively strong circumstantial evidence that there are elements of human rights violations in these agencies. As a prerequisite for the adjustment of investigation rights, we request that police themselves adopt an environment that is friendly toward human rights.”

Cho’s words suggest that if police improve on such issues, the Moon administration may transfer to them investigation rights from the prosecution.

One of the key counterarguments that have been raised by the prosecution in protest of the transfer of investigatory rights to police has been the concern that police may then commit human rights violations.

“This is emphasizing that in order to adjust investigation rights,” said Kim In-hoe, a professor of Inha University Law School, “the police themselves have to resolve the mistrust towards them.”

Adjusting investigation rights has been one of Moon’s campaign pledges.

The National Police Agency has immediately begun a review process of key tasks, including making sure that administration police, who have been in charge of security, do not interfere with investigative police and making it compulsory for public defenders to be assigned during police investigations to monitor the human rights situation.

However, it is unclear if the reform process will go as the Blue House plans as the issue of prosecutorial reform and the transfer of investigatory authority to police has been raised at the beginning of past administrations but never resolved.

BY HEO JIN, HAN YOUNG-IK AND SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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