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Universal Periodic Review



Second session meeting highlights

7 May 2008 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Republic of Korea this afternoon, during which 33 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Ghana, following the review of the country on Monday, 5 May.

Presenting the national report of the Republic of Korea was KIM SUNG-HWAN, Vice Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who said the Republic of Korea was of the view that the Universal Periodic Review was a project of great value for improving the rights of all humankind and that his country was determined to contribute to the full success of the mechanism. As part of its efforts to fulfilling its human rights obligations and pledges the Government of the Republic of Korea extended a standing invitation to all Special Procedures mandate holders. The Republic of Korea has achieved democracy with rule of law, pluralism and good governance in a relatively short amount of time. The Republic of Korea’s road to democratization represented a struggle for fundamental freedoms and human rights. Reemphasizing the importance of human rights as universal values, the new Government of the Republic of Korea, inaugurated last February, approached human rights issues in the discussions in multilateral fora, including in the Human Rights Council. The Constitution of the Republic of Korea was the basic and supreme legal document achieved as the fruit of the tireless process of democratization and enumerated the promotion and protection of a wide range of fundamental freedoms and human rights. The Republic of Korea was part to the six core international human rights treaties.

The Government of the Republic of Korea established the Human Rights Bureau in the Ministry of Justice in 2006 to comprehensively pursue various human rights issues and policies through an integrated approach, the Vice Minister noted. The Government also adopted the National Action Plan 2007-2011 for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights through the National Human Rights Policy Council in May 2007. The Action Plan presented the detailed roadmap to implement individual issues corresponding to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It accorded special attention to vulnerable groups or minorities such as women, children and juveniles, persons with disabilities the elderly, victims of crime, foreigners, Korean residing in foreign countries, refugees, North Korean resettlers, persons with specific diseases and sexual minorities. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea was launched in 2001 in full accordance with the Paris Principles. It played a central role in monitoring human rights violations by government agencies, and in shelters, detention and correctional facilities. The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, which was launched in February 2008, integrated existing institutions including the Ombudsman of Korea, the Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Administrative Appeals Commission to provide one-stop service for addressing public complaints and filing administrative appeals.

In terms of discrimination, the Government recently drafted the Anti-Discrimination Act which was submitted to the National Assembly for deliberation, the Vice Minister added. The advancement of women’s status and improvement of their rights remained apriority of the State. Since the Ministry of Gender Equality was created in 2001, consistent and systematic policies for women had been established. Much focus was also centred on the prevention and elimination of violence against women. New legislation such as the Basic Act on Treatment of Foreigners Residing in Korea strengthened the obligations of central and local governments concerning education, public relations and other measures in order to protect the human rights of foreigners and their children on Korea. Moreover, the Government of the Republic of Korea introduced the Employment Permit System in 2004 to give the protection of legal status to migrant workers, to prohibit discrimination, to recognize their rights of access to a system of redress ad to ensure access to national health insurance. The Government also guaranteed the tight to education of the children of migrants irrespective of their residence status.

Responding to questions submitted in advance, the Vice Minister stated that, with respect to the rights of migrant workers, foreigners who were not legally permitted to stay in the Republic of Korea should be sent back to their home country. However, they could seek remedies through the Ministry of Labour and civil law suits could be taken with regard to delayed payment or compensation due to accidents. In response to a question on the National Human Rights Institution, the head of delegation noted that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea was an exemplary national institution accredited with "A" status by the International Coordinating Committee. The Commission was an independent body from the Government. With regard to a question on the Penal Procedure Code, the head of delegation affirmed that video taping interrogation was widely used in the interrogation of suspects and witnesses. As to the issue of domestic violence, the Korean Government imposed more sever punishment on habitual offenders through the revised Special Act and medical assistance programmes had been improved for victims though the amendment to the Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims.

During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the creation of the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in May 2007; efforts to achieve gender equality and the establishment of the Ministry for Gender Equality; the enactment of the Basic Act for the Treatment of Foreigners; the stated de facto moratorium on the death penalty; mechanisms in place for the protection of enjoyment of human rights by women; that the Republic of Korea was party to the six core human rights treaties; efforts aimed at raising public awareness in the field of human rights; and activities aimed at protecting children from violence.

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to the main challenges and obstacles faced in the implementation of the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; efforts to ensure the full implementation of the Act on the Protection of Non-regular Workers; plans to abolish the Security Surveillance Law; plans to improve the conditions of detention centres; the State’s intention to abolish the death penalty; whether there had been any study carried out on the possible link between the high number of suicides and other sudden deaths in detention facilities, as noted by the Committee Against Torture; measures to provide better monitoring of detention facilities; efforts to ensure a thorough investigation of those responsible for cases of ill treatment; the plans of the State to modify the revised Bill of Criminal Procedural Act to ensure that persons detained for the purposes of a criminal investigation or under arrest were to be brought promptly before a judge; and the progress being made to implementation of the new Code Penal Code.

Other issues pertained to the measures envisaged for combating discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation, particularly in the work place; the legislative provisions criminalizing domestic violence; how the Government was addressing the concern by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2001 on the hardship caused by family breakdown; the effectiveness of insurance schemes for marginalized groups; information on the cases of societal discrimination against children with disabilities and measures taken to combat such cases; the Government policies to protect the right of asylum seekers; measures taken to address violations of human rights on the Internet while protecting freedom of expression; and practical measures being taken to guarantee the freedom of association to the fullest.

A number of States raised questions and concerns with regard to the rights of migrants, in particular women migrants, and measures being taken to strengthen the protection of the rights of foreign women and the steps undertaken to combat trafficking in an the exploitation of women. Information was also sought on the plans of the Government to change the respective legislation in order to allow for more active participation of female foreign spouses in the economic sphere; the effects of the new legislation on the family; measures to guarantee the right to attainment by people of the highest possible level of health; policies in place or under consideration to ensure that vague definitions in line with the National Security Law did not limit freedom of expression in the Republic of Korea and plans to amend the National Security Law; plans to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and plans to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures of the United Nations human rights system.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; to protect and fulfil the rights of all women migrant workers and to ensure that they were not subjected to discriminatory practices; that the Republic of Korea placed special emphasis on women and children when formulating policies to protect the rights of migrant workers; to strengthen efforts to uphold the Act on the Treatment of Foreigners Workers to ensure their fullest protection; to ratify the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities without reservations; to ratify the Convention on enforced and involuntary disappearances; to take concrete measures to abolish the Security Law; to bring the Security Law in line with international standards; and amend the National Security Law to prevent abusive interpretations of the law.

Other recommendations included: To recognize the right of conscientious objection by law and to decriminalize refusal of active military services as well as to remove any current prohibition from employment in government or public organizations; to take steps to abolish the death penalty; To take relevant measures for legislative and criminal justice improvements; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to guarantee for the freedom of association and assembly was enshrined into law by the Government; to implement the Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees; and to ensure that refugee recognition procedures be improved in line with international refugee law.

Other recommendations included: That the Republic of Korea provide human rights training to law enforcement personnel and to ensure that measures were taken to ensure that he human rights of migrants were protected at all times; to investigate all allegations of torture and ill treatment by law enforcement officers; to provide human rights training for officials dealing with instances of domestic violence and child abuse; to adopt child sensitive procedures during criminal proceedings involving children; to review the legal provisions regarding enhancing the protection of victims sexual assaults; to provide for a broader definition of acts of discrimination against women; and to prohibit corporal punishment on students and at home and to implement educational measures promoting positive and non-violent forms of discipline.

Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Canada, France, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Azerbaijan, China, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Bangladesh, the Russian Federation, Italy, Romania, Mexico, the Ukraine, Japan, Germany and Peru.

Observer States participating in the discussion were the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Turkey, Algeria, Colombia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Latvia, the United States, Australia and Tunisia.

The 26-person delegation of the Republic of Korea consisted of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Gender Equality, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of the Republic of Korea are Peru, Egypt and Jordan.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on the Republic of Korea can be found here.

Adoption of report on Ghana: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Ghana are the Netherlands, Bolivia and Sri Lanka. Introducing the report DAYAN JAYATILLEKA (Sri Lanka) after thanking the delegation of Ghana and the OHCHR Secretariat for its work in drafting the report said the 22 recommendations in the report enjoyed the support of Ghana. Ghana would provide responses, if any, to recommendations in due time. Representing the State under review, JOE GHARTEY, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Ghana, said the delegation had Ghana had learnt much from the review and that the recommendations laid out in the report would contribute to making Ghana a better place to live in. Ghana believed that the only way to live was in freedom and justice.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of the Republic of Korea on Friday, 9 May.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Switzerland after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Peru

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.

To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp

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