Thu, Dec 23, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Truth committee has new problems

By Ku Er-teh顧爾德

On Dec. 15, the Council of Grand Justices announced its interpretation of the March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee Statute (三一九槍擊事件真相調查特別委員會條例), saying that Articles 8 and 13 were unconstitutional.

More important, however, was the grand justices' interpretation of the truth committee's status. It is sure to stir up fresh controversy.

There has already been much debate on the fact that Articles 8 and 13 clearly violate the independent authority of the judiciary and the Executive Yuan.

That they have been found to be unconstitutional has surprised no one. The most significant aspects of the grand justices' interpretation concerned Articles 2, 15 and 16, which deal with the status of the truth committee and who is to sit on it.

According to the Council of Grand Justices, appointments to the truth committee should be confirmed by the Legislative Yuan and approved by the legislative speaker if they are to be deemed constitutional.

In other words, the grand justices are saying that the truth committee is a body appointed by the legislature and coming under its authority, and that the purpose of the truth committee is to carry out the investigative operations of the Legislative Yuan.

The grand justices are clearly approaching the issue of the constitutionality of the truth committee from the angle of the independent authority of the Executive Yuan, the judiciary and the legislature.

They looked at whether or not the power of the legislature was infringing the territory of the other two institutions.

From their interpretation it is apparent that they have failed to supply one clear answer.

They first affirm that the legislature has the authority to make the truth committee statute, but that its specific form actually violates the independent power of the judiciary and Executive Yuan.

Without expressly declaring that the truth committee is unconstitutional, they have returned it to the Legislative Yuan that gave birth to it, asking that the legislature "adopt" it as its own.

In order to solve the constitutional problem that has arisen between these three branches of government, the grand justices have unexpectedly delivered more investigative powers to the legislature, something of a surprise Christmas gift to it.

Grand Justice Hsu Tsung-li (許宗力), in a dissenting report, put forward a number of persuasive arguments.

For him, the methods and goals of the truth committee are akin to those of criminal prosecutors, and it should therefore be characterized as a body under the Executive Yuan.

While the grand justices fell short of directly saying the truth committee was unconstitutional, they have given it the investigative powers of the legislature, while prohibiting it from engaging in criminal investigations.

This frustrates the truth committee, whose intention had been to investigate the March 19 assassination attempt as a criminal case, simultaneously imposing the wishes of individuals who legally have no right to make laws over and above the basic rights and scope of the legislature.

Legislators should think carefully whether this is preferable to having the truth committee declared unconstitutional.

This interpretation has stripped the truth committee of some of its powers, preventing its members from having the same authority as criminal prosecutors.

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