2016: UN Critizises S.Korean Government

Der Untergang der Ferry SEWOL bei Jindo, Südkorea, 16.4.2014
The Hankyoreh, June 19, 2016

Siehe auch:  Statement By The United Nations Special Rapporteur On The Rights
To Freedom Of Peaceful Assembly And Of Association At The
Conclusion Of His Visit To The Republic Of Korea

UN Special Rapporteur criticizes S. Korean government on rights to assembly

At UN Human Rights Council, Maina Kiai says government’s use of water cannons and vehicle barriers is “hard to justify”.

During a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16, Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, expressed his serious concern about how the South Korean government has been suppressing assemblies and demonstrations.

“The South Korean government’s use of water cannons is indiscriminate, and in some cases it is aimed at specific individuals. That would be hard to justify,” Kiai said.

Kiai visited South Korea in January to assess the current status of the freedoms of assembly, association and expression in the country. “Water cannons increase the risk that demonstrators will suffer grievous harm,” said Kiai in the report on South Korea that he delivered on Thursday. Kiai was referring to the experience of Baek Namki, a farmer who was knocked out by a water cannon during a nationwide rally in Nov. 2015.

Along with water cannons, Kiai also expressed his view that South Korea should reconsider the use of the vehicle barriers that the police set up on the road.

“Vehicle barriers are being used not so much to manage the actions of demonstrators as to preemptively hinder them from exercising the freedom of peaceful assembly,” he said.

Kiai also expressed concerns about the indiscriminate use of criminal prosecutions against demonstrators, mentioning in particular Park Raegoon, a member of the standing committee for April 16th Solidarity, and Han Sanggyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Park and Han were arrested for organizing last year’s Sewol rally and the nationwide rally, respectively.

“It is excessive and unreasonable to hold the organizers of a demonstration liable for damage resulting from the illegal activity of other individuals. Demonstrators must not be investigated or prosecuted in criminal or civil court simply because they participated in a demonstration,” Kiai said.

“Unconditional bans must not be placed on the times and locations of public assemblies. The South Korean government needs to revise the Assembly and Demonstration Act and improve the way that act is applied.”

In related news, former comfort woman Kim Bokdong, 90, who traveled to Geneva on June 13, met with Dubravka Simonovic, special UN rapporteur on violence against women, on June 16. During the meeting, Kim called on the Japanese government to apologize and asked the UN for its cooperation.

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop), which accompanied Kim to Geneva, reported that Simonovic said during the meeting that the agreement reached by the governments of South Korea and Japan appears to have disregarded the principles and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other human rights organizations. The special rapporteur also promised to do her best to ensure that the UN would support and cooperate with the former comfort women, Jeongdaehyeop said.

By Lee Seungjoon, staff reporter