Wednesday, 5 August 2009

South Korea: Human Rights Body Challenges Death Penalty

By Kang Shin-who
From The Korea Times, 4 August 2009

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) filed a petition with the Constitutional Court Tuesday to end capital punishment.

In the petition, the commission said the nation has no authority to deprive citizens of life, as life is the most fundamental right of human beings.

"Even in extreme situations, human life shouldn't be a tool or an object to realize state policy or promote public interest," it said.

"The death penalty is also against humanitarianism and we cannot rule out the possibility of misjudgments," it added.

Historically, human rights groups here and overseas have campaigned to abolish the death penalty.

Last September, the Gwangju High Court filed a petition with the Constitutional Court, claiming that the government should come up with a punishment between the death penalty and life sentencing.

The case is currently under review.

A fisherman was sentenced to the death penalty in his trial for killing four tourists and asked his appellate court judge to lodge the petition, claiming that capital punishment was unconstitutional.

Accepting his suggestion, the appellate trial will be suspended until the Constitutional Court reviews the petition.

According to the Ministry of Justice, Korea has 59 convicts on death row. Korea has been a de facto country free of capital punishment as no executions have been carried out here for the past 11 years.

Related stories:
South Korea: Murders spark debate on death penalty -- 28 February 2009
South Korea: Challenge to death penalty law -- 13 October 2008
South Korea: Renewed calls for abolition -- 12 October 2007
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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