Constitutional Judges Must Rule Fairly on Prosecution Reform Law

      May 06, 2022 13:13

      The ruling Minjoo Party has bulldozed through a bill that strips prosecutors of their investigative powers and President Moon Jae-in, though on his last legs and gone in less than a week, has immediately promulgated it in order to prevent his successor Yoon Suk-yeol from exercising his veto. These are shenanigans worthy of a banana republic. In fact, a president must exercise his veto right on a law passed by the National Assembly if it violates the Constitution. This is not a president's choice but a duty. But so keen is Moon to shield himself and his cronies from prosecutorial investigation that he has at last thrown any remaining shred of decency overboard.

      One MP lawmaker said 20 Cheong Wa Dae officials "could go to jail" if the bill failed to pass and she no longer wants any part in its passage. Surely any law specifically designed to keep a select few out of jail violates the principle of equality and is unconstitutional. But the law now remains in effect until the Constitutional Court rules against it. Already steps are being taken to speed up the process.

      A group of academics has filed a petition with the Constitutional Court arguing that the revised law violates the basic constitutional rights of Koreans. If prosecutors are prohibited from investigating cases and must make indictments only based on what police investigate, they say, the full extent of a crime could remain hidden, and therefore perpetrators could be judged improperly and victims could also suffer more. The main opposition People Power Party, meanwhile, has filed a complaint against the MP, which has a super-majority in the National Assembly, for using all underhanded tactics at its disposal to pass the bill. The Justice Ministry and prosecutors also plan to file a lawsuit against the move. Even the National Court Administration under the Supreme Court has voiced concerns that stripping prosecutors of their investigative powers is unconstitutional. Another clause that prevents accusers from objecting to a decision by police to drop charges may also be unconstitutional.

      The trouble is that eight of the nine Constitutional Court judges were appointed by Moon and five of them are left-leaning lawyers from Lawyers for a Democratic Society and other government claques. A recent survey shows that more than 60 percent of Koreans opposed passing the prosecutorial reform bill before Moon's term ends. The Constitutional Court must pull itself together and rule fairly on the controversial law. Judges are not politicians and the public is watching them closely.

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