South Korea: more CO cases for UN Human Rights Committee

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Oh Tae-yang and ten others South Korean conscientious objectors will file a petition with the United Nations arguing that their convictions by the Korean government violated their freedom of conscience.



O Taeyang is a pacifist and buddhist. He declared his conscientious objection publicly on 17 December 2001. On 7 February 2002, a court decided that he would be not imprisoned while awaiting trial - this was the first time in any conscientious objection case in South Korea. On 19 June 2002 his trial was adjourned until after a decision of the Constitutional Court, but the case was reopened on 17 May 2004. On 30 August 2004 he was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months imprisonment, and arrested in court. He was released from prison on 30 November 2005.


The new individual complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee follow the decision of the Committee from November 2006 in the cases of objectors Yoon Yeo-Bum and Choi Myung-Jin. The Committee decided "that the facts as found by the Committee reveal, in respect of each author violations by the Republic of Korea of article 18, paragraph 1, of the Covenant.


In accordance with article 2, paragraph 3 (a), of the Covenant, the State party is under an obligation to provide the authors with an effective remedy, including compensation. The State party is under an obligation to avoid similar violations of the Covenant in the future."


Choi Jung-min, the head of the activist group Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection (KSCO), said Sunday, "The conviction of 11 objectors who refused mandatory military service because of conscience beliefs is against the basic principle of freedom of religion and conscience in the UN Charter, and we decided to file a petition with the UN." Choi said that the objectors did not refuse military service because of religious issues.

According to the same report in Chosun, an official from the Ministry of Justice said that discussion is under way about granting last year's objectors a pardon but a conclusion has not yet been reached.


However, a pardon of Yoon Yeo-Bum and Choi Myung-Jin will not solve the problem, as the 11 new cases show. It also does not address a very important part of the decision of the Human Rights Committee - that "the State party is under an obligation to avoid similar violations of the Covenant in the future". This can only be addressed with a legal recognition of the right to conscientious objection.


Sources: Conscientious Objectors to Complain to UN, Chosun.com, 19 March 2007, co-update No 4, December 2004, CCPR/C/88/D/1321-1322/2004, 23 January 2007

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