Sat, Oct 19, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Judiciary still behind the eight ball

By Dan Chan 詹德恩

With Taiwan’s democratic development and the increasingly diverse channels of communication, those in charge of the judiciary can never be sure whether there will be another Deep Throat exposing information they would really rather did not make it into the public domain.

Anyone in this position, from prosecutors to the police to the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, should have known that ordering a blanket wiretap on a telephone number belonging to the legislature would very likely cause a political stink of the same order as if they had bugged a presidential candidate during an election campaign with absolutely no evidence that the candidate was engaged in wrongdoing.

Given this, it is inconceivable that they would ever try and pull such a stunt, unless of course there was something seriously wrong with their heads.

Over the past several weeks, the public has lost sense of what it really should be focusing on in this case. We should be focusing on how ludicrous it is for those who were — they say — inadvertently wiretapping the legislature’s switchboard — used for handling multiple extension numbers — to turn around and say the disks containing the recordings were blank, especially when they claim they did not realize this for a full month after the initial recordings were made.

We know from past investigations of this kind that these things happen only when those in charge neglect to transcribe the wiretapped conversations. Of course it is not because they subsequently, on further investigation, discovered that the reason the recordings they received were blank was because the number they were wiretapping was the legislature’s switchboard number.

Criminal litigation is about more than uncovering the truth, it is also about protection of human rights and the principle of the presumption of innocence. Therefore, an investigation will follow certain procedures, whether they be beneficial or detrimental to those being investigated.

The Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法) clearly stipulates the importance of confidentiality, while also prohibiting the use of improper questioning methods. However, some of those charged with investigating cases often view such methods as a “necessary evil” and think nothing of it.

For example, as we have recently seen, a person whose communications are wiretapped as part of a corruption investigation may also be found to be having extramarital affairs, but such affairs reflect only on that person’s personal integrity and are usually completely unrelated to the corruption case in question. However, details of such affairs turn up in the crime news pages of our newspapers.

Apart from the people carrying out the wiretapping, who else could be leaking such material. Are we seriously supposed to believe that those being wiretapped would voluntarily leak such information to the media?

Another example can be seen from media reports featuring comments by those who were interrogated by Special Investigation Division (SID) prosecutors, which clearly show that even now prosecutors continue to use intimidation to force confessions — telling suspects that they they will treated with leniency if they cooperate, and treated harshly if they do not play ball — with tactics that would be more at home in the 1960s.

Clearly, Taiwan’s judicial bodies have a long way to go before they can be considered to be conducting professional investigations. This is also an issue that our judicial bodies need to pay serious attention to during this whole legislative wiretapping scandal.

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