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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Civil-Political
  • 2018.05.31
  • 2177

We support the statement which declared that the Prohibition of Assembly within 100m of the National Assembly building is not conform with the Constitution. 

It is necessary to reform the Assembly Act for the freedom of expression even at the doorsteps of the National Assembly.

 

Today (5/31) the Constitutional Court of Korea ruled that blanket prohibitions of assembly and demonstrations within 100 meters of the National Assembly building are unconstitutional, in violation of Section 1, Article 11 of the Constitution. It has been almost five years since the former Secretary General of PSPD Lee Tae-ho filed the lawsuit, after being imprisoned for the violation of the Assembly Act for participating in a march in front of the National Assembly. PSPD’s Public Interest Law Center (led by Yang Hong-suk) which had organized the lawsuit, welcomes the Court’s decision, seeing it as a milestone  that will help broaden the right to assembly, though it notes that the process had been substantially delayed. Above all, the National Assembly must abide by the Constitutional Court’s ruling, and act in accordance with the will of the citizenry. 

 

This was a unanimous decision by the 9 judges of the Constitutional Court and is significant because it clearly establishes that, the Assembly Act had thus far unnecessarily prohibited rightful acts of assembly and demonstration that did not impede on the function of the National Assembly. Until today, the National Assembly had pushed back the voice of our citizens, especially those of the minorities and marginalized, to 100 meters outside the legislative body with the Assembly Act, instead of performing their duty to listen. Even when the National Assembly made decisions contravening the national opinion or exhibited irresponsibility, as was often the case, the citizens had limited options to express their opinions or to influence the decision-making process. The freedom of demonstration and assembly is a fundamental right for minorities and the marginalized to communicate and to build solidarity. It also could serve as a last-resort measure for survival for an ordinary citizen or a socially marginalized group that does not possess sufficient political or economic means to voice their opinions. Representative Democracy can only work effectively and gain legitimacy when the opinions of the its people are expressed freely. 

 

The National Assembly, after the decision of the unconstitutionality of the Assembly Act, now is responsibile for amending Article 11 before December 31, 2019. The Constitutional Court proposed several examples of assembly that do not impede on the function of the National Assembly, the prohibition of which would demonstrate a clear breach of fundamental rights, but these should not be interpreted to be the only forms of assembly that are protected under the Constitution. The right of Assembly, guaranteed by the Constitution itself should not only be allowed in small groups or only during vacation or on national holidays. If it is a peaceful rally, it should be broadly protected with no limitations on size or time. This is further demonstrated by language in the decision of the court that only limits possible acts which could potentially physically endanger members of the National Assembly or which would pose a risk to their safety when entering the Houses of the Parliament or other official buildings. 

 

The Constitutional Court’s decision demonstrates that assembly activities do not necessarily contravene the activities of the National Assembly and further opens the possibility that assembly activities can further the goals of the National Assembly by helping it perform its function as the "collector of public opinion.” In relation to this affair, the National Assembly has not examined the petition made a year and a half ago regarding the reform of November 2016 which absolutely prohibited assembly in certain places. However, in accordance with today’s decision, the National Assembly must reform laws in a direction which will guarantee freedom of expression as much as possible. Instead of weighing political advantages and disadvantages, the National Assembly needs to carry out its responsibility to ensure citizens’ fundamental rights from now and onwards. 

 

 

번역 : 황보경(참여연대 국제연대위원회 자원활동가)

감수 : 참여연대 국제연대위원회

 

 

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