Tue, Nov 05, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Easy surveillance leads to abuse

By Lin Feng-jeng 林峯正

A decade ago, to guarantee human rights, prosecutors’ powers of investigation became subject to the discretion of the judge. Naturally, at the time, the vast majority of academics were in favor of these changes, while prosecutors and the police raised vociferous objections, on the grounds that these changes would deny them the initiative in investigations, and would be disastrous for the investigation of crimes.

Now, 10 years on, the original indignant objections have disappeared, and investigators have become used to the idea that they have to seek a judge’s permission. This shows that the move to protect human rights was not the death knell for public security that some had suggested it would be.

We have seen other examples of reform before. It has been the same for reform requiring prosecutors to seek a judge’s agreement before detaining a suspect. We have also seen the same thing with the introduction of requirements to record the entire process of the interrogation of suspects, to prevent the incidence of torture.

Reform would be quite simple. All it would require would be the abolition of these telecommunications surveillance centers, putting us back to being like other countries governed by the rule of law, and to take away prosecutors’ ability to monitor telecommunications at will.

Of course, this might cause some inconvenience. Yet at the same time, it would ensure the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of privacy of personal information.

Lin Feng-jeng is a lawyer and executive director of the Judicial Reform Foundation.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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