Human Rights Violations of the Villagers against Miryang 765kV Power Transmission Tower
- 2013.10.07 (20:21:39)
Suppression on the Villagers who are against Miryang 765kV Power Transmission Tower
Miryang is located at the southeast part of the Republic of Korea and close to Busan which is the second largest city in the country. Nuclear plant is being constructed in Busan and to transmit electricity to Seoul, 69 transmission towers are decided to be constructed in 5 villages of Miryang. Villagers have protested against the construction for eight years to protect their land and environment.
On 30 September 2013, the Korea Electric Power Corporation(KEPCO) reopened the transmission tower construction in Miryang after 126 days of suspension without proper consultation with villagers. As a result, human rights violations against environmental defenders and villagers have continuously reported since 30 September 2013.
As of 7 October 2013, 11 human rights defenders were arrested during their protest against the construction of Miryang 765kV Power Transmission Tower. Arrest warrants were requested for four human rights defenders, three were denied and one was issued. Ongoing human rights violations have been documented. It is very difficult to bring food and clothes to the protest site since the police block the road and control access to the protest sites. Human rights defenders including villagers are isolated at the protest sites and it is also hard to document human rights violations.
Human rights activists organized Human Rights Monitoring Team and are visiting the protest site in turn, documenting human rights violations on site. Every day, Human Rights Monitoring Team releases a brief report on human rights violations in Miryang. Below report is based on the report from Human Rights Monitoring Team.
1. Overall Situation of Human Rights in Miryang
1) Controlling Access to the protest site
The police insist that they prioritize safety and human rights of villagers. However, the police control access to the protest sites which make villagers go around steep mountains to enter the protest sites, take away protest tent where villagers could stay warm during protest and do not allow bringing minimum basic staples to protest sites. When human rights defenders asked reasons of controlling access, the police replied “it is a national project and it is for villagers’ safety”. The police say that they prepared ambulance to prevent possible injuries but this cannot be a way to protect human rights violations.
Also, medical personnel cannot enter the protest site even though they show their ID to the police. As the police mentioned, ambulance is staying at the protest site but they are provided by the KEPCO, and villagers refuse to receive medical treatment from the KEPCO. While villagers insist to get medical check-up by a “reliable” medical personnel, their request has been refused by the police. Since most villagers are in their 70~80s, it is very dangerous staying under the sun for a long time, staying overnight in the mountain under cold temperature, and climbing steep mountains every day.
On 4 October 2013, lawyers, Human Rights Monitoring Team and some villagers visited a protest site near the construction site of the transmission tower No. 109 to deliver necessary staples for protest but could not enter the site because of the police. They requested the police to deliver staples on behalf of them and gave it to the police (including plastic screen to cover rain, heating pad, rain coat, tissue, first aid, blanket etc). The police said that they provided tent to avoid sun and water to villagers but did not allow visitors to enter the protest site, so monitoring team could not verify the fact.
Even when the basic staples are delivered to the protest site, it is under the strict control by the police. For example, basic staples can be only delivered by the police in some protest sites.
2) The Police illegally take photos of human rights defenders
The Police take photos of environmental defenders during protest and even when they are having a rest. According to the Supreme Court’s decision in 1999, collecting photos without warrant is ‘exceptionally’ allowed only when urgency and necessity of collecting information is existing on site and only when the crime is currently committed. Therefore, taking photos of human rights defenders regardless the situation is illegal. Environmental defenders including villagers complained about this illegal photo taking by the police but the police continue to do so which intensified tension at the protest sites.
Whenever human rights defenders request the police to reveal their identity, they do not reply and continue to take photos of human rights defenders. Most police officers covered their face with masks while taking photos or wear plain costume.
3) Excessive use of force by the Police
According to the testimony by villagers, the police show different attitude depends on the presence of media and visitors from outside. The police even called old villagers “commis”. When the protesters tried to start a fire for heating, the police threaten them to arrest and saying it is a violation of the Forest Law, and used fire extinguisher on villagers’ gas burner and food.
On 3 October 2013, some catholic nuns visited the protest sites with food, to stand in solidarity with villagers. However, city council officers and the police who tried to enforce administrative vicarious execution untangled catholic nuns’ hood and punched their chest. When this story is covered by the media, the police asked for ID of the catholic nun and argued that it was the police who were hit at that incident.
Old female villagers dig a hole under the ground, making noose above the hole and staying in there as a way of protest. A woman sitting in front with a vest is a member of Human Rights Monitoring Team.
2. Alleged Perpetrators
- The Korea Electric Power Corporation(KEPCO)
- The National Police Agency
- The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy: The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy establishes overall energy plan in the Republic of Korea. Therefore, they are responsible for estimating energy demands, deciding construction of energy plants and planning construction of transmission tower. The KEPCO is an implementing body of decisions made by the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy.
3. Requests of Miryang Villagers and Civil Society Organisations
- Immediately release all arrested human rights defenders
- All basic staples including tent, sleeping bags, heating equipment, food, water should be delivered to villagers at the protest sites without being controlled by the police
- Reliable medical personnel should be able to have a free access to the protest sites.
- Immediately stop construction of 765kV Miryang Transmission Towers and start genuine dialogue with villagers.
- Establish a committee for social dialogue to fully discuss validity of the construction and hold a TV debate for a public discussion.
※ 20131002_Individual Complaints_ROK_Miryang_OHCHR
※ 20131003_Individual Complaints_ROK_Miryang_OHCHR