Wednesday, 6 February 2008

South Korea: 100 days for abolition

Amnesty International considers a country to have abolished the death penalty "in practice" if it has not executed anyone in the previous 10 years, and it is "believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions". The organisation also includes in this group those countries which have made an international commitment not to use the death penalty.

South Korea was declared abolitionist in practice on 30 December 2007, bringing to to 135 the number of countries that have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Some 27 of these are from Asia and the Pacific.

To celebrate this milestone, Amnesty International South Korea joined a coalition of 20 human rights organisations in a series of events for the 100 Days Against the Death Penalty campaign, run from 22 September to 30 December.

The campaign was designed both to celebrate 10 years since the last executions were carried out in South Korea, and to reinvigorate the campaign to abolish the death penalty in law.

It included the Life is Precious film festival, a press conference for the World Day against the Death Penalty (10 October), presentation of a thank you letter to former president Kim Dae-Jung, and a concert and public statement for 30 December.

Kim Dae-Jung, himself a former death row inmate sentenced to die on trumped up political charges, began the country's practice of not carrying out executions when he took office in 1988. In February 2006, he issued a statement arguing for the abolition of the death penalty.

Presentation of a letter of thanks to former president Kim Dae-Jung (23 November, 2007):

AI Korea youth group performing at the press conference for the World Day Against the Death Penalty:

Petition of faces calling for the abolition of the death penalty in law:

Ceremony marking 10 years without executions. Following the ceremony in front of the National Assembly building, 64 roses were handed to passers-by and 64 doves were released - symbolising the 64 people then on death row:

A member of Amnesty International South Korea reported that the country's president decided at 10 o'clock that night to commute the death sentences of six death row prisoners, reducing the number of people under sentence of death to 58.

One brutal day, 10 years ago
The last executions in South Korea were on 30 December 1997, when 18 men and 5 women were executed in prisons across the country. They had no advance notice of their imminent executions. The mass hangings were the first executions in the country for two years.

Related stories:
South Korea: Renewed calls for abolition -- 12 October, 2007
Call for South Korea to show 'leadership' -- 27 June , 2006
South Korea death penalty hearing -- 10 April, 2006
South Korea: Kim Dae-jung's call for abolition -- 6 March, 2006
South Korea – former president calls for abolition -- 27 February, 2006

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