Reform committee recommends reducing prosecutor-general’s authority

Jul 28, 2020, 08:07 am

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The Justice and Public Prosecutors Reform Committee/ Photographed by Jung Jae-hoon

AsiaToday reporter Lee Wook-jae 

The Justice and Public Prosecutors Reform Committee under the Ministry of Justice announced a set of recommendations on prosecutorial reform on Monday, which include dispersion of the prosecutor-general’s investigation command authority.

Observers point out that the justice ministry is apparently attempting to reduce the prosecutor general’s authority at the committee level after its minister Choo Mi-ae exercised her authority earlier this month, virtually neutralizing prosecutor-general Yoon Seok-youl’s right to command investigations.

During the 43rd meeting at the Gwacheon Government Complex, the committee urged the justice ministry to abolish the chief prosecutor’s right to command investigations, to improve prosecution personnel’s statement procedure, and to diversify appointment of the prosecutor-general.

Specifically, the committee recommended the ministry to abolish the prosecutor general’s authority to direct investigations into district prosecutors across the country. In this process, the committee recommended that the justice minister supervises an investigation by issuing a written order to a chief of the high prosecutors’ office while being prohibited from ordering the prosecutors to not indict a suspect. 

The committee also suggested measures to allow outsiders and women to be actively appointed to the position of prosecutor-general, even if they are not prosecutors. 

The committee repeatedly claims that it has come up with a measure to decentralize the prosecutor-general’s powers to control an investigation in order to achieves checks-and-balance system among forces within the prosecution, but many from judicial circles believe that it is a plan to weaken the prosecutor-general’s authority.

“The prosecution reform is not heading in wrong direction fundamentally,” said Kim Jong-min, an attorney who served as a member of the reform committee. “Carrying out the prosecution reform while leaving a room for political forces to intervene in the prosecution’s authority and maintaining the police’s authority as it is can be interpreted as an intention to weaken the prosecutor-general’s authority,” he said. 

Regarding the appointment of a prosecutor-general from non-prosecutors, Kim said it was “nonsense.” “Appointing a prosecutor-general from outside the prosecution can only be interpreted as an intention to appoint a person who listens to the administration,” he said. 

Some voice concern that the committee has set the cause for the changes in the justice ministry’s system. They point out that the committee’s recommendation can help the justice minister to put more pressure on the top prosecutor. 

#prosecution reform #prosecutor-general #justice minister #Yoon Seok-youl #Choo Mi-ae 
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