Re-investigate the 3/19 Shooting Incident: Swiftly Establish the Truth
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 20, 2009
The Control Yuan's report on the Tainan District Prosecutor's Office's handling of the 3/19 Shooting Incident was made public yesterday. The Control Yuan's finding was that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to conclude Chen Yi-hsiung was the sole perpetrator. Four aspects of the case remain in doubt. Prosecutors were clearly negligent in their handling of the case. The Control Yuan's findings were sent to the Ministry of Justice Supreme Prosecutor's Office, in the hope that the Special Investigation Unit will reopen the case, and carry out a thorough investigation.
The circumstances surrounding the 319 Shooting Incident are strange. The truth remains hidden. Prosecutors concluded that Chen Yi-hsiung was the perpetrator, then hastily closed the books on the case. The public remains deeply skeptical. Two reports issued by the Truth Investigation Committee have listed a number of doubts. Former Vice President Annette Lu was one of the victims of the shooting. Her own research has been published in her book, "Focus on 3/19." She has asked that the case be reopened. Rumors are that a just completed Control Yuan investigation headed by Control Yuan member Wu Feng-shan has arrived at the same conclusion. The truth of the incident remains hidden. Prosecutors must reopen the case. The Attorney-General recently revealed in the Legislative Yuan that the Supreme Prosecutor's Office Special Investigation Unit has obtained new facts and evidence and has reopened the investigation. The Control Yuan has merely released its report. It has not exercised its right of impeachment. It has not exercised its right of redress. It has investigated the prosecutors who handled the case for dereliction of duty. It merely wants to uncover the truth and uphold justice. The Special Investigation Unit has a responsibility to make amends. We would like to remind the Special Investigation Unit of these three points.
First, when the Special Investigation Unit reopens the case, it must explain why it is reopening the case. There is only one reason to reopen the case, and that is to unmask the real perpetrators, to discover why they committed these crimes, and how they committed these crimes. The previous investigation concluded that there was only one perpetrator, Chen Yi-hsiung. He allegedly committed the crime because he was unhappy with the Chen administration. He allegedly fired two rounds from a single gun. These and other conclusions have been called into question by two consecutive Truth Investigation Committee Reports, by Annette Lu's book "Focus on 3/19," and by the Control Yuan's report. Obviously the conclusions of the previous investigation have little credibility. Therefore a Special Investigation Unit must return to square one, and start all over again. It must ask who were the perpetrators? How many were there? It can no longer stonewall by stubbornly sticking to discredited and overturned conclusions. It can no longer defend the indefensible. It can no longer engage in self-deception. It can no longer neglect its duty by pointing the finger Chen Yi-hsiung without evidence.
Secondly, when the Special Investigation Unit reopens the case, it must uphold the strictest standards for professionalism and neutrality. It may not harbor any preconceived opinions. It may not rule out any possibilities. For example, it may not assume there was only one perpetrator. It may not assume that two rounds were fired from one gun, or that two rounds were fired from two guns. It may not assume that the conclusions of the Tainan Prosecutor's Office were flawless. It may not assume that no political conspiracy was involved. Above all, it may not assume that Chen Yi-hsiung was the sole perpetrator. The previous investigation concluded that the perpetrator was Chen Yi-hsiuing, and that the first shot was fired at Annette Lu and not at Chen Shui-bian. As the Control Yuan's report has already pointed out, these conclusions are difficult to reconcile with the facts, including the condition of Chen Yi-hsiung's body and the time of his death. Last time the prosecution closed the case because Chen Yi-hsiung was already dead. But it lacked sufficient evidence that he committed any crime. It also concluded that Chen was the sole perpetrator of the crime. Prosecutors violated proper procedure when handling the case. They caused serious injury to Chen Yi-hsiung's reputation and to the rights of his family. The Special Investigation Unit must not cover up the defects in their case. It must frankly admit that the original investigation was seriously flawed. Only then can it cast off its burden, rekindle the flames, and uncover the full truth.
Thirdly, when the Special Investigation Unit reopens the case, it must take into account serious public skepticism. It must seek a reasonable answer and a reasonable explanation. Frankly, given the conduct of Prosecutor General Chen Tsung-ming's Special Investigation Unit over the past two years, its credibility is limited, and its competence is in question. The prosecution originally concluded that Chen was the sole perpetrator. It lacked direct evidence for its conclusion. Even the evidence that Chen was "a perpetrator" rather than "the sole perpetrator" was unpersuasive. There were no eye witnesses. There was no plausible motive, let alone evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. There is probably more evidence that Chen Yi-hsiung's role was something else entirely, than that he was the perpetrator. When the Special Investigation Unit seeks new facts and evidence, it need not remain fixated on the idea that Chen Yi-hsiung was the perpetrator. It should be prepared to admit that Chen is not necessarily the perpetrator. It may be difficult to reconstruct the scene of the crime. The movements, itineraries, duty stations, and liaison arrangements of those involved that day, including one thousand bodyguards and members of the motorcade, must be reestablished. Only then can we even begin to approach the truth. Only then can we learn the full story. Only then can we learn who, why, and how the perpetrators committed their crime.
The uncovering of the real perpetrator of the 319 Shooting Incident has a bearing on criminal justice and the fundamental human rights of Chen Yi-hsiung and his family. It has a bearing on the use and abuse of official power on Taiwan. It has a bearing on the character and credibility of the president, his subordinates, his security detail, prosecutors, and police in the hearts of the public. The Control Yuan report calls for the truth. The Special Investigation Unit must overcome all difficulties, and uncover the truth!