Deeply Disappointed with the Korean Constitutional Court’s Decision to Uphold the Death Penalty
- 2010.03.19 (16:37:57)
Disappointment over the Ruling of the Korean Constitutional Court's Decision Not to Abolish the Death Penalty
We strongly appeal against the Korean Constitutional Court’s ruling that death penalty does not infringe the Constitution of Korea. Death Penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Such punishment runs counter the Article 10 of Korean Constitution, ‘All citizens shall be assured of human dignity and worth’.
It is clearly stated in the Provision 2 of Article 37 that ‘the rights and freedoms of citizens can be restricted by laws, but even in cases, no essential aspect of freedom and right shall be violated’. The right to life is one of the fundamental rights which should be protected by the Constitution and the principle has been affirmed by constitutional courts in many countries. Since 1990, Constitutional Courts of Hungary, South Africa, Albania, and Ukraine ruled that their constitutions do not allow deprivation of the right to life, and ruled to abolish death penalty in law. The most recently, Russia decided to extend moratorium on the death penalty and executions, and furthermore recommended complete abolition.
139 out of 197 countries, more than 2/3 of the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Two of three nations are joining death penalty abolitionist each year. Since December 1997, Korea has not carried out executions and the International Society has considered Korea as abolitionist in practice as of December 2007. In this context, the decision today disgraces Korea and damages its reputation which produced the UN Secretary-General and is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
Even though the Constitutional Court declared that death penalty is constitutional, it does not justify death penalty that is a total denial of the right to life. The Korean government has pledged non-application of the death penalty to the Council of Europe when signing in the Extradition Treaty.
Considering this fact together with the principle of equality stated in the Constitution, this is a promise not to execute any offenders regardless whether arrested in Korea or anywhere else in the world. The decision of the Korean Constitutional Court does not mean resumption of death penalty executions and Korea should retain its direction and position as a virtual abolitionist in practice.
We call on the National Assembly to recall its duty and to be in the front in order to abolish death penalty in law. At the 15th and 16th National Assembly, a special bill was submitted to abolish death penalty for which 175 lawmakers, more than the majority of 17th National Assembly Members agreed and signed, but expired without a proper discussion. The current 18th Assembly has proposed two special bills and they are pending at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee.
Death penalty is a murder executed in the name of law and now it is the time to end this controversy by enacting the abolition of the law. In Korea, there are still 57 convicts who have been sentenced to death and imprisoned in fear. While the issue of the resumption of the death penalty floated above the water during last year, two criminals under sentence of death committed suicide in despair.
We hereby express our deep disappointment over the ruling of the Korean Constitutional Court today. However, we will make more efforts for the Korean government to officially announce moratorium on death penalty executions and for the National Assembly to pass and enforce special bills on the abolition of death penalty.