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No More Torturing, Promises Justice Ministry

Posted November. 15, 2002 22:51,   


In the future, the defense attorney can assist his/her client during interrogation. In addition, it becomes mandatory for an interrogator to present a suspect the "notice of the Fifth Amendment," which informs the suspect of his/her right to refuse to make statements against his/her will.

A material witness such as the eyewitness will be punished, if he/she refuses to report to the DA`s office even after served with a subpoena. On the other hand, the prosecution will close the special interrogation rooms located on the 11th floor of the Seoul District Public Prosecutors` Office building.

These are the major ideas in the anti-torturing measures announced by the Justice Ministry on November 15. This series of measures have come out in the wake of the sudden death of a suspect, while in custody, by tortures. The ministry also promises to issue an executive order or an order of Justice Minister prohibiting any practice of torture during investigation.

Under the new rules, the defense attorney can make appearance all throughout the interrogation procedure, unless exceptional circumstances justify the expulsion of the attorney. For example, if the presence of the defense lawyer unreasonably delays the investigation by encouraging false statement or fleeing of an accomplice, the prosecution can exclude the attorney from the investigation.

A prosecutor has to present the Fifth Amendment notice to the suspect, and have him/her read and sign the notice. And then, the prosecutor has to attach the signed notice to the interrogation report.

The Justice Ministry is trying to introduce a new bill to revise the current criminal procedure by the end of this year. If the bill passes through Congress, the prosecution will be empowered to bring in for questioning a material witness who refuses to report to the prosecution, and bring a criminal charge against a material witness who makes a false statement to the investigators.

On the other hand, the prosecution makes other efforts to protect the material witness. For example, an affidavit of a material witness will not contain the name of the witness.

Under the new guideline, the focus of the investigation will be shifted from getting the confession to collecting scientific evidence. In order to achieve this goal, the ministry will employ more special agents and scientific equipment. Further, the ministry will no longer allow use of the special interrogation rooms located on the 11th floor of the Seoul DA`s office building. However, if it is necessary to separate accomplices from each other, with the permission of a superior, a prosecutor can use an interrogation room, which will be equipped with surveillance cameras. In addition, the prosecutor has to record in writing all the procedures taken to use the interrogation room.

Furthermore, Ministry of Justice has ordered the police officers working on assignment for the DA`s offices to report back to their police stations. As a first step, the 7 officers who have worked for the Felony Division of the Seoul DA`s Office have gone back to their original station for good, and the other officers working for 6 DA`s offices nationwide will follow the suit. In the future, no confession forced by torturing will be accepted as evidence. Moreover, a prosecutor is no longer allowed to interrogate a suspect after the midnight. Any assistant of a prosecutor cannot conduct an interrogation without the presence of a prosecutor. The "after-midnight" interrogation, however, is allowed when a suspect or a material witness agrees or a fugitive is arrested. Each DA`s office is to install a "torture hot-line," and to appoint civil rights protector and civil rights supervisor.

Sang-Rok Lee myzodan@donga.com