Prosecutors must publicize reasons: groups

ACCOUNTABLE:Prosecutors should be directly elected and should have to appear in court and give their identity in any case they investigate, a judicial reform advocate said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 3

Public prosecutors should be required to publish the reasoning behind prosecutorial decisions and accept limits on their power to file suits, campaigners said yesterday at a judicial reform forum hosted by the Taiwan Forever Association, as the National Congress on Judicial Reform continues.

“If you make public final reports on closed cases, it would help people better understand prosecutors’ work and avoid misunderstandings,” said Kao Hung-ming (高宏銘), a former public prosecutor and founder of legal advocacy group Follaw, calling for prosecutors’ findings in unnatural death cases to also be publicized.

“I have seen and heard of many cases where a prosecutor felt a death was a suicide, but the family members of the deceased were not given a reason,” he said, calling for prosecutors to be required to provide families with an official report on their rulings in such cases and giving relatives the opportunity to submit a separate report to the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office before a decision is ratified.

Prosecutors should also be required to appear in court and reveal their identities to all parties in cases they investigate, Kao said, adding that an external evaluation system should be implemented to hold them responsible.

“There are inherent difficulties with requiring one prosecutor to bring a case against another,” he said, adding that external evaluation would promote the enforcement of rules, such as those on leaking information on ongoing investigations.

Taiwan Forever Association director Jerry Cheng (鄭文龍) said prosecutors’ discretion to file charges should be restricted to reduce politically motivated suits aimed at tarnishing political figures’ reputations.

“Right now, there are basically no rules or restrictions,” Cheng said.

“The president has constitutional immunity while in office, but the more than 900 prosecutors nationwide can file suits against anyone all the way up to the premier and the head of the Judicial Yuan,” he said.

In addition to requiring prosecutors to receive approval before filing suits, there should also be restrictions on their right to appeal not guilty verdicts, Cheng said.

“Currently, there are no limits, so even if a succession of six judges have ruled an individual innocent, they could still end up convicted on the final appeal,” Cheng said.

“What happened to the presumption of not guilty?” he added.

Direct elections of public prosecutors and an expanded role for police officers in the investigative process should be considered, he said.