Press Statement of the Joint Fact-Finding Mission of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHCR)
I. Background of the Mission
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) decided to conduct a fact-finding mission, consisting of four members, to South Korea from 21-24 July 2008 in the light of numerous reports of human rights violations since May. The two regional human rights organisations consider the events recently occurring in South Korea of regional importance because South Korea is viewed as a benchmark for democracy and human rights in Asia. We believe that the decline of democracy and increase of human rights violations in South Korea would have an impact on the rest of the region.
The main focus of our mission has been to examine the situation of human rights defenders and the state of freedom of opinion and expression in the light of the rallies against the agreement between the United States and South Korea to lift US beef import restrictions. It is especially significant for us to look into the situation of human rights defenders since this year is the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The adoption of this declaration is important as it is viewed as a step towards the promotion and protection of the rights of human rights defenders because it outlines the responsibilities of states and non-state actors in protecting these persons’ rights.
During our mission this week, we met with eight non-governmental organisations (NGOs), 12 human rights defenders (e.g. lawyers, NGO workers, journalists, and medical workers), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK). We also attended the trial of a human rights defender, Ms. Yoon Hee-Sook. We requested appointments with the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency. Because of the Ministry of Justice’s busy schedule, we were not able to meet them this week. There was no response to our request from the National Police Agency. We also sent a request to the Seoul Detention Center to meet with four detainees, Mr. Ahn Jin-Geol, Mr. Hwang Soon-Won, Ms. Yoon Hee-Sook, and Mr. Moon Yong-Sik. The Seoul Detention Center refused our request.
II. Initial Findings
It is important for us to note that this press conference may be the conclusion of our visit, but not the conclusion of our mission. Even after our departure, we will continue communicating with government and human rights defenders in South Korea. In fact, we have transmitted a list of questions and concerns to the Ministry of Justice and we await their response.
Our initial findings show that there have been incidents of attacks against human rights defenders during the series of rallies over the past two months. Also, we have found that there is a trend towards unduly limiting freedom of opinion and expression in the media and the internet.
The information we have gathered indicate that most of the attacks against human rights defenders were committed by riot police. We note that the riot police deployed to these rallies consist of young men, between the ages of 19 and 23, who have been conscript-xed. For instance, we have gathered information that about a journalist who was attacked by riot police on 29 June, at 7 o’clock in the evening, in front of the Samsung Tower. This journalist was taking pictures with his camcorder of the protest when a group of riot police rushed towards him, surrounded him, and started beating him up. His camcorder was damaged because of the attack. Another case we have documented is about a volunteer medical worker who was attacked in front of the Press Center on 28 June, at 10 o’clock in the evening. She was wearing a helmet and a vest which clearly identified her as part of the volunteer medical team. Despite her being clearly identified as a volunteer medical worker, riot police rushed towards her and hit her with a shield. She fell down and got back up, but despite her injuries she continued to assist the injured people, which included several riot policemen. We have also gathered information about a lawyer who was wearing a vest which was clearly marked “A Group of Lawyers Monitoring Human Rights Violations.” He was beaten unconscious by riot police on 26 June, at around 1:30 in the morning.
Some of the information we have gathered on the trend towards increasing restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression include proposed expansion of criminal defamation into cyberspace. We view this as going against the global trend of decriminalizing defamation. Criminal defamation statutes have been viewed as undue infringement of freedom of opinion and expression since it has often been used by governments to suppress political dissent and democratic discourse. We also emphasize that under international law, governments and public officials should expect less protection under defamation statutes because of their status as servants of the people.
We have also gathered information of apparent attempts to censor media, such as the case of MBC’s PD Notebook program.
Based on our initial findings, we therefore recommend the following:
(a) To the government:
· Set an example in the region in the compliance of international human rights standards, considering the fact that it is a member of the UN Human Rights Council;
· Take steps to implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;
· Conduct investigations into allegations on attacks against human rights defenders and bring perpetrators to justice;
· Abolish the current system of conscript-xion of young men into the riot police;
(b) To the Ministry of Justice:
· Amend laws unduly restricting freedom of opinion, expression and assembly, in particular those provisions under the Act on Assembly and Demonstration which prohibit public assemblies after dark;
· Comply with international human rights standards and decriminalize defamation in order to promote democratic discourse;
(c) To the National Police Agency:
· Provide comprehensive and mandatory training to police officers that are deployed to rallies and assemblies, so that these police officers would understand that as guarantors of people’s dignity and rights, they also need to respect the right to free flow of information and ensure the right to freedom of assembly;
· Make human rights training mandatory to all police officers in accordance with international standards;
(d) To the National Human Rights Commission of Korea:
· Strive to keep the independence that has made it highly regarded in the region, as its independence is essential to its effectiveness to protect human rights defenders on the ground.
IV. Future Steps
As we have mentioned earlier, we will continue to communicate with government and human rights defenders in Korea. Moreover, FORUM-ASIA and AHRC aim to use our findings to launch a campaign at the UN Human Rights Council regarding the human rights situation in South Korea. We hope to encourage the relevant special procedures (e.g. Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders, Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and the Right to Health) to accept the standing invitation of the government and conduct country visits to investigate the human rights situation in South Korea.
Next may be UN Human rights defenders or Union of International Human-Rights.
Who will believes how it could be possible even Korea is a nation of democracy ?
The leader of riot police department's brother is one of stockholder of ruin stores.
And goverment try to cover up a fact.
Even YouTUBE has been got warned by Korean goverment and them blocked(blinded) korean IP on one video that is a record of TV-show telling about suspicion about brother of leader of Korean police department.
Blinding people's eyes is easy.
But deceiving the truth is not easy.
The history never forget the facts of crimes.
I wish the truth will be disclosed.
We could be know who was lier, who has been criminal acts.
For more informations :
an open letter to south korea :
amnesty south korea results :