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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Civil-Political
  • 2010.03.29
  • 1762

An Open Letter to the Minister of Justice of the South Korea by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Mr. Lee Gui-Nam
Minister of Justice
88 Gwanmon-ro, Gwachon-si
Gyonggi Province 427-760
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Tel: +82 2 503 7023
Fax: +82 2 2110 3079 / 503 7046
E-mail: webmaster@moj.go.kr

Your Excellency,

SOUTH KOREA: Order of facilities for execution draws international concerns: Death penalty must be abolished

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) would like to first of all express our deep condolence to the family members whose children have been abused recently in South Korea. The AHRC has no doubt that such cases would be thoroughly investigated by law enforcement agencies and the criminals be punished in accordance with law.

According to the information obtained, after such cases were made known to the public some politicians made comments calling for severe punishment for child abuse together with the execution of the convicted. In response to such comments, you ordered an examination to establish the facilities for execution when you visited the Cheongsong correctional institution on March 16, 2010.

Apart from the comments made by politicians, the statement made by you, as the final decider for execution, has drawn serious international concerns.

Whenever such cases occur, it is a general belief that the maintenance and execution of the death penalty can reduce serious crimes such as murder. However, this belief has been verified to be no longer effective and international research and reports, including those of the United Nations have already testified that there is no relevance between the existing death penalty and deterrent of serious crimes. Unfortunately, the government of South Korea has failed to find the reason behind why such serious crimes occur (and have been actually increased) but made use of it in order to justify the possible execution. The comment based on this approach will never solve the actual problem and rather prevent others from searching for the reason. This thinking process has led to the root of the crime remaining unsolved. This instead may have some bearing on the fact that South Korea has the highest suicide rate among OECD countries.

The comment on the possible execution strengthens the hypocritical standpoint of the country in the eyes of the international community. When the South Korean government presented its candidature for membership to the Human Rights Council in May 2008, it submitted the national action plan (2007-2011) for promotion and protection of human rights of the country. It made it clear in relation to the death penalty system that it would examine current law and practice and consider the desirability of maintaining it or introducing the substitute for death penalty. If this execution is carried out it will demonstrate the government’s false commitment on human rights to the international community. This will also affect the position of the government as a member to the council. Furthermore, it is doubtful as to whether the ministry has actually conducted a public discourse on the abolition of death penalty system.

Together with public discourse on the abolition of death penalty system, what the government should do is develop a relief system for the victims and family members of a crime. In this sense, the government must thoroughly scrutinise the current system of support and develop a comprehensive system so that they can return to normal life and overcome the grief of loss. The most important question should be as to whether or not there are appropriate systems including financial, medical and psychological support available and their accessibility to the victims and their family.

It is reported that after the suspect for the child abuse was arrested, the police investigation on the case was deemed to be questionable. It was thought that if any fault was found the investigating police responsible would be punished. While welcoming the raising of this issue the AHRC wishes to point out the need for a thorough review of the police investigation system. The review should not restricted to punishment but be conducted in such a way as to develop scientific investigation methodologies. In this sense, appropriate financial and human resources must be provided in order to improve this area. If the discourse does not connect to larger scale for review on the investigation system, people will suffer from the slow and inaccurate investigations and the people’s distrust in the police will only deepen.

If the convicted are executed, you as leader of the ministry of justice under the current government cannot avoid the blamed of being the first minister to execute some in the last 12 years. Furthermore it will be much more of a mockery as the ministry added the death penalty as one of punishments to the “Act on Punishment, etc. of Crimes under Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC)” in 2007, implementing legislation of the Rome Statute of the ICC, despite the fact that it is not one at the statute.

We urge you to withdraw the comments of a possible execution and stop any process of making the facilities. The AHRC is of the view that the Ministry of Justice should rather ratify the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This will be the genuine step for your ministry to respect human rights according to the commitment of the South Korean government to the council.

It is noted that a draft for the abolition of the death penalty has repeatedly been submitted to the National Assembly but no actual efforts to pass it into law have been made. A similar draft has been introduced and is currently pending. However, it is not proceeding any further than the previous ones. We take this opportunity to request all politicians to be actively involved in the process so that the death penalty is abolished accordingly and that the ministry of justice plays a leading role in initiating such process.

We would like to remind you of the past experience of in a number of executions where the convicted persons were later found to be innocent and that the death penalty was misused as a tool to rule people and create fear in the society. We hope the people in South Korea will overcome such traumatic experience by appropriate action of your ministry.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


Basil Fernando
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China

CC:
1. Mr. Lee Myung-bak, President, Republic of Korea
2. Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, SWITZERLAND
3. Mr. Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, SWITZERLAND
4. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General, United Nations, New York, USA

 

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