Binding force is key

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Binding force is key

Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il said in his first offical press conference that he will install a committee to review prosecutorial investigations. For controversial cases that draw public attention, the review will invite outside experts to keep watch on the fairness and justice of the investigation process and grounds for indictment.

At the same time, the special investigation bureau in charge of dealing with political cases would be scaled down and an internal reform task force launched. Moon said he would seek to make prosecutorial establishment transparent, fair and open.

The top prosecutor’s comment comes as the new government considers establishing a new institution responsible for investigating corruption among senior public officials and allowing the police to share the investigative powers currently exclusive to the state prosecution. We would have to see how Moon’s reforms help to rationalize and contain the outsized prosecutorial powers.

The idea of an investigation review committee is quite refreshing. Criminal cases have been entirely under the hands of the state prosecution which has often been criticized of making cases public or not depending on its whims. Its exclusive authority often came under political abuse.

But the concept is not entirely new. The state prosecution has been running a civilian committee where it seeks outside opinions on some of its cases. It took after the grand jury system in the United States and Japan’s prosecutorial review commission. But it was limited by a lack of binding force.

The new committee must include neutral members and have a binding force to ensure its authority in containing prosecutorial power abuses. Otherwise, the prosecution cannot convince us that it means reforms this time.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 9, Page 30
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