Header image for news printout

Committee against Torture considers report of the Republic of Korea

GENEVA (3 May 2017) - The Committee against Torture this afternoon completed its consideration of the combined third to fifth periodic report of the Republic of Korea on the efforts made by the State party to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture.

Introducing the report, Kwon Jeong Hoon, Director-General of the Human Rights Bureau at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Korea, informed that the State had translated the Committee’s previous recommendations into amendments of the criminal procedure code of 2007, with the view of better defending the rights of suspects and conforming to the principle of habeas corpus. The authorities had also adopted international rules regarding the treatment of detainees and revised the existing law in that regard. The National Human Rights Commission conducted its own control of the activities of the police and the armed forces. The Government applied the principle of non-refoulement and actively participated in the activities of the international community to alleviate the situation of refugees. The police had disseminated recommendations to each police station to improve the protection of victims of sexual violence, and specialized units had been created in every police commissariat. The Government had taken steps to eliminate the mistreatment of mentally ill people and avoid prolonged hospitalization.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, Committee Experts asked that the definition of the crime of torture be brought in line with the Convention, and encouraged the State party to definitively abolish the death penalty. Numerous questions were asked about inspections of places of detention, medical care provided to prisoners, and how the State party was dealing with the problems of overcrowding. Experts also wanted to hear about human rights training provided for police, army and military officials, and asked for details on the effectiveness of such training. Other issues raised related to the national security act, juvenile justice, protection of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons, independence of judges, investigations of past human rights abuses and fighting impunity, anti-terrorism legislation, and the right to legal counsel and free legal aid.

Mr. Kwon, in concluding remarks, said that the dialogue had been meaningful, and the delegation had been able to brief the Committee on the progress made thus far. The delegation wanted to demonstrate the State party’s commitment to the Convention against Torture.

The delegation of the Republic of Korea included representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of Employment and Labour, the Ministry of Gender Equality, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Korean National Police Agency, the Refugee Division, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will take place on Friday, 5 May at 3 p.m, when the Committee will meet with the Chairperson of the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, who will present the Subcommittee’s annual report.

Report

The combined third to fifth periodic report of the Republic of Korea can be read here: CAT/C/ROK/3-5.

Presentation of the Report

KWON JEONG HOON, Director-General of the Human Rights Bureau at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Korea, stated that, since the presentation of its previous report in 2006, the State had translated the Committee’s recommendations into amendments of the criminal procedure code of 2007, with the view of better defending the rights of suspects and conforming to the principle of habeas corpus, which prohibited imprisoning anyone without a warrant. Major improvements in that area consisted of an explicit mention in the criminal procedure code of the right of every person under interrogation by the police to have a legal counsel’s support, as well as that the interrogation be video-recorded. The authorities had also adopted international rules regarding the treatment of detainees and revised the existing law in that regard.

The National Human Rights Commission conducted its own control of the activities of the police and the armed forces. However, in spite of those measures, occasional acts of torture could take place, the head of the delegation said. Faced with such incidents, the Government was applying strict practical measures in order to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. There was no tolerance for torture, and impunity was unambiguously rejected. During the reporting period, the Republic of Korea had adopted a number of relevant laws, including a law on combatting trafficking in human beings, a law on the protection of refugees, and a law allowing the Republic of Korea to prosecute persons who had committed acts of torture and crimes against humanity in other countries. The Government applied the principle of non-refoulement and actively participated in the activities of the international community to alleviate the situation of refugees. The Republic of Korea hosted refugees from Myanmar and Syria. On the other hand, the revision of the law on mental health in 2008 had prohibited forced labour and acts of violence in mental health institutions. Since February 2016, the new national human rights action plan for the promotion and protection of human rights was in place.

The police had disseminated recommendations to each police station to improve the protection of victims of sexual violence; specialized units had been created in every police commissariat. Efforts to combat trafficking in human beings had been recognized by the United States Department of State. The National Police Agency had established a central database of victims of sexual violence. Divisions with mandates to look into sexual violence had been established. The State was providing comprehensive assistance to victims, with a particular focus on underage victims. The Government also provided special attention for children with disabilities, in order to prevent sexual violence against them.

The organic law on human rights commissioners had been revised with the view of ensuring their diversity. The Government believed that the mandate and the structure of the National Human Rights Commission met international standards. The Government was also committed to raising medical standards in detention facilities. In order to provide for critically ill inmates, the Government had embarked on the construction of a prison with a full-fledged medical facility. If a prisoner showed a risk of suicide, he or she would undergo a full evaluation by a team of experts. The military criminal act provided for a punishment for those who acted violently within the armed forces. Regarding mental health institutions, the Government had taken steps to eliminate the mistreatment of mentally ill people and avoid prolonged hospitalization. Persons who reported child abuse crimes were particularly protected, informed Mr. Kwon. Abused children were provided with medical and psychological support.

The Government was aware of the importance of the continuous education of officers, particularly in the security and armed forces, with the view of preventing torture. All police officers were trained on actual cases of human rights violations; the military had also revised modules in order to place additional focus on human rights education.

Questions by the Rapporteurs

ANA RACU, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for the Republic of Korea, reminded that the Republic of Korea had ratified the Convention and its Optional Protocol in 2008. Following that, a number of related acts had been adopted, as well as two national action plans on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Ms. Racu referred to the definition of the crime of torture, which should be in line with Article 1 of the Convention, but was still missing. The State report read that a special committee had discussed amendments of the criminal act and would examine adjusting the definition of torture to that spelled out in the Convention. However, it had been eight years already, and no progress seemed to have been made.

On the abolition of the death penalty, the Committee was aware that no execution had been carried out since 1997. At the same time, a reported 61 persons remained on death row. Ms. Racu wanted to know whether the State party would commute all death sentences and take further steps towards a complete abolition of the death penalty.

Turning to the national security law, the Co-Rapporteur described it as very controversial, with many non-governmental organizations calling for it to be abolished. The law was considered to be outdated and described as a relic of the Cold War. It continued to be used to silence dissent and could be seen as contradictory with the principle of freedom of expression. From 2006 to 2015, more than 400 persons had been detained under that law. What had been done in order to abolish or substantially change the national security law, asked Ms. Racu? Had investigations been conducted into the violations committed under that law?

A question was asked about inspections to various places of detention. What were the outcomes of such inspections, which numbered more than 3,000 since 2006, and had any criminal cases followed from such visits? A legal counsel was very rarely invited to investigations, noted Ms. Racu. What constituted a “good cause” for a legal counsel’s presence in interrogations? A legal association survey showed that close to half of all suspects stated that they had been treated unfairly by the investigating authorities. What steps did the State party plan to take to improve the provision of legal aid and to eliminate restrictions on the participation of legal counsel?

Access to quality medical care in prisons was another area of concern. The number of inmates who had committed suicide had decreased in recent years, but the number of inmates who had died of diseases had increased. The Committee asked the delegation to elaborate on steps taken to ensure that all newly arrived detainees were medically screened.

It was positive that, since 2010, all persons in detention had been officially registered in an information system immediately after their detention. Such a system provided an appropriate safeguard, and the State party was commended for its implementation. A comprehensive answer was sought on the question of audio and video recording during interrogations.

Information was sought on the use of force by the police against peaceful farmer protesters on 14 November 2015, leading to injuries of several protesters by water cannons. Baek Nam-gi, a 68-year-old farmer, had been severely injured by a water cannon and had died 10 months later. Had his family received any compensation, asked Ms. Racu? The Republic of Korea ought to train its law enforcement officials on the use of force, in line with international standards.

Information was also sought on disciplinary or penal measures imposed on police officers for human rights violations. Ms. Racu asked about contradictions in the State party’s report on the number of cases, and asked for clarifications in that regard.

Moving on to juvenile justice, the Expert stated that there were sources indicating that the situation in juvenile facilities was a cause of major concern. The number of juvenile inmates as of June 2016 had been higher than the maximum capacity of the existing juvenile facilities, noted the Expert. What had the Government done to bring the juvenile justice system closer to international standards? Had law enforcement agents been trained on how to deal with children in conflict with the law? The Committee was particularly interested in non-custodial measures applied for children. Who carried out monitoring visits to juvenile detention facilities? Did lawyers assist children throughout the course of criminal proceedings?

Child protection agencies had reported a high number of abuses of both physical and psychological nature in recent years. Statistics showed an increase in violence against children; the delegation was asked to provide information in that regard, especially when it came to the prohibition of corporal punishment in all settings.

How many allegations of coerced confessions had been submitted to the authorities, and what were the results, asked Ms. Racu?

The Republic of Korea was the first Asian country to have adopted a refugee act, noted the Expert. Despite significant resources and good will, refugees faced certain difficulties. Korean law required that asylum seekers remained in detention facilities for the duration of the processing of their asylum claims, which could sometimes last several years, she noted. Rejected asylum seekers did not have a possibility of appeal, and there were no laws or procedures regarding stateless persons. Would the State party consider establishing an independent asylum appeal board? An update was requested on living conditions in detention centres.

SAPANA PRADHAN-MALLA, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for the Republic of Korea, raised a number of questions connected to human rights training. The delegation was asked to provide information on the number of human rights training sessions provided in recent years. Was the training extended to court officials, including judges, lawyers, medical doctors, forensic personnel, and prison officers? Training ought to be provided to all those who were part of the justice system. Curricula and the extent of the training should be provided to the Committee. The delegation was asked about mechanisms to monitor training sessions and their effectiveness and outcomes. Did the training on human trafficking include immigration and border officers? It needed to be continuous and ongoing, said Ms. Pradhan-Malla.

Turning to the conditions in detention facilities and prisons, the Expert congratulated the State party for undertaking to expand the existing facilities and construct new ones. How could the process of construction be accelerated? What special adjustments were being provided for women, particularly those who were pregnant or had children? Women ought to be engaged in both prison management and investigations; gender-desegregated data in that regard would be appreciated. Information was asked about steps taken to combat sexual violence in prisons, and to ensure that prisoners, both male and female, were safe in that regard.

Who had a legal mandate to inspect places of detention, was it the National Human Rights Commission? Respecting the diversity of the Commission was indeed important, but the Committee wanted to know more about the appointment process of the commissioners. How were the roles of the Human Rights Bureau and the National Human Rights Commissioner differentiated? Who had a legal mandate?

A question was asked about how cases related to torture and ill-treatment were registered, and who prosecuted them. More details were asked about inter-agency coordination in that regard. Dealing with torture was not easy, acknowledged the Expert, because cases were sensitive and could implicate the Government. Yet, the Government had the responsibility to show zero tolerance towards torture and to fully investigate all allegations. Therefore, the Committee would like to know about the mechanisms in place.

Had the authorities been able to improve medical treatment in detention facilities, asked Ms. Pradhan-Malla? The Committee wanted to know more about what the authorities did to better collect evidence. What had been identified as critical areas in that regard?

How many cases of torture and abuse in the military had been prosecuted, and had anyone been convicted, asked the Expert?

Several questions were then asked about the protection of victims, and steps taken to avoid their re-victimization.

On lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intrasex persons, the Expert referred to the discriminatory treatment of homosexual officers in the military. Gay persons were often submitted to conversion therapies. Intrasex children were regularly operated on, which was disconcerting.

A question was asked on the use of the habeas corpus principle, and whether anyone had been released from prison on those grounds.

Questions by Experts

An Expert brought up the issue of the size of prison cells, and wanted to be given more details on the exact area dedicated to individual prisoners. Overcrowding in prisons had not been completely eliminated, and the occupancy level of prisons stood at some 113 per cent. In addition to constructing new correction facilities, had the Korean facilities proceeded to replace imprisonment with other, non-custodial punishments, in order to reduce the overcrowding?

On solitary confinement, the Expert inquired about excessively long solitary confinement periods, which sometimes went up to 30 days, and could thus constitute cruel punishment. What were the rules and the regime of the Government on solitary confinement in civil and military detention facilities? Alternative sources indicated that the regime of solitary confinement was used excessively; was such information accurate?

Another Expert asked about the independence of judges and requested details from the delegation in that regard.

Regarding juvenile justice, the Expert asked about the possibility of detaining minors in conflict with the law without a judicial decision and without seeking legal counsel. That would not be in line with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A specialized unit for the care of prisoners at risk of suicide had been set up; what were its results and what impact had it had on the reduction of the number of suicides in prisons?

The delegation was asked to explain access to health care by inmates – including to external medical establishments - and inform about the training provided to external health providers, including on the provisions of the Istanbul Protocol; to describe the ‘substitute cells’, which would soon be replaced by correctional centres; and also to describe the future correctional centres.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 2005 to investigate past human rights abuses since independence in 1945 had handled 11,175 cases during the 2005-2010 period. Had the Government offered official apology to the victims as recommended by the Commission, how many victims had been compensated and how had their honour been restored?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that violence and cruel acts were punishable as defined by the criminal code; committing such crimes from the position of authority aggravated the crime. The amendment to include torture into the definition of the ‘violence and cruel acts’ article of the criminal code was pending.

The death penalty was constitutional, as ruled by the Supreme Court. A bill to abolish the death penalty had been proposed, but had been discarded following a public session. The Republic of Korea would continue to listen to the voice of the public and would also continue to consider legal minds in its approach to the abolition of the death penalty.

With regard to restrictions on the participation of legal counsel in the interrogation of a suspect, the delegation noted that this right was guaranteed; it could be restricted partially if the involvement of the legal counsel would interfere with the investigation.

On marital rape, it was explained that the Supreme Court in its 2013 decision had defined as rape any forcing of sexual intercourse on a spouse, including under the threat of violence.

Responding to questions concerning the treatment of transgender persons in detention, the delegation said that, in order to protect them and their health, they were kept in solitary cells, had the right to shower by themselves, and were provided with specialized health care.

Questions by the Experts

A Committee Expert asked whether all inmates who were eligible for parole had to swear an oath to obey the law in order to actually receive the parole. What were the conditions under which the right to legal counsel in interrogation could be partially restricted? What studies had been undertaken into suicide among detainees and in the army, including the nature and root causes of this phenomenon?

The 2016 anti-terrorism legislation had sparked criticism by the human rights community - what was the nature of the legislation and how was it aligned with the international human rights protection standards and the Convention against Torture?

ANA RACU, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for the Republic of Korea, asked whether human rights non-governmental organizations could visit and monitor places of detention, including police stations and psychiatric facilities, and whether a law to this effect would be passed.

Replies by the Delegation

On the question on the national security act, the delegation explained that the act had been enacted under unique circumstances with the State facing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a next-door neighbour. The goal was to preserve liberal democracy in the country; agencies strictly complied with due process, including by respecting the right to be assisted by legal counsel. The last case had been 10 years ago when an investigator was convicted for committing torture or a cruel act in the course of investigations.

There was no system which allowed prosecutors to regularly check on human rights infringements in prisons, military facilities and mental hospitals. The Human Rights Bureau at the Ministry of Justice could regularly investigate law enforcement agencies for human rights infringements. In a recent case, five police officers had been imprisoned and suspended from service.

The delegation stated that crime victims, persons with disabilities and persons with low incomes could access free legal aid provided by the Republic of Korea’s legal aid association. Members of the Korean bar association offered pro bono legal services to residents of areas underserved by lawyers, as a part of their public duty. The system was known as the “village attorney system.”

Suspects facing detention should be informed of the grounds for detention and of the fact that they could select a defence counsel, who would be informed of the charges, and the time and the place of detention, explained a delegate.

On the issue of medical screening of newly arrived detainees, the police checked all new arrivals for overall health conditions and any wounds, which were all recorded. The detainee was also interviewed; if he or she requested medical treatment, he or she was transported to a nearby facility for medical care. The detainee would be continuously monitored even after the treatment. If the detainee was critically ill, he or she would be admitted to a hospital.

When detaining a person, his or her information was entered into the electronic system; to date, there had been no cases in which the detainee’s information was not entered.

Statements of suspects could be video recorded, explained the delegation, and witnesses’ statements could be recorded with their consent. Where a victim of a sexual crime was a minor or was unable to discern the situation, their statement would be video recorded, and the recording would then be admissible as evidence.

Regarding alleged use of excessive force by the police, particularly the “candlelight protest” of 2008, the delegation said that more than 100 police officers had been injured and numerous cars damaged. In the case of the death of the farmer because of the use of a water cannon, disciplinary measures against police officers would be taken on the basis of the results of the investigations by the prosecutors.

Apart from criminal punishment, severe disciplinary and personal measures were applied against sexual violence perpetrators in the military service. Efforts were made to keep the victim away from the perpetrator. The offence of violence in military barracks had been recently introduced as a crime. In March 2016, the Constitutional Court had acknowledged a reasonable need for operating a military guard house. Independence of the review had been strengthened, and commanders respected the opinions of military judicial officers; the right to appeal was provided. Aged guard house facilities were being improved.

Concerning human rights abuses in the military, it was said that in 2015, a legislative bill had been submitted to establish a military ombudsman. In 2016, when the National Assembly had opened its new, twentieth session, the bill had been submitted again and was currently pending.

Regarding overcrowding in juvenile facilities, the delegation said that the per person space had been expanded from four square meters to six square meters, part of the State’s proactive effort to create a healthy environment for juvenile detainees. Renovations of four juvenile facilities had been recently completed. The percentage of those who were released and subsequently returned to juvenile facilities stood at just over nine per cent. In order to reduce recidivism, those released were provided with multifaceted support.

As of 2016, some 40 per cent of juvenile detainees were kept in juvenile facilities, while others were given non-custodial punishments. Male and female juveniles were kept separate in such reformatories, where educational activities were provided. The Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and the Human Rights Commission conducted annual visits in order to evaluate the conditions and assure that the treatment of inmates was at a satisfactory level.

On the issue of corporal punishment against children and child abuse, the delegation said that the number of reported cases had increased because of the passage of a related act, which prescribed mandatory reporting of abuse. In addition, various publicity campaigns had been conducted, thus increasing the general public’s understanding of the problem. If a child had been absent from school for a long time or had not received statutory vaccinations, his or her home was visited and the child was checked for signs of abuse.

The delegation said the Refugee Committee was currently handling appeals by rejected asylum seekers; the Committee currently had more private sector than government members. Private sector members included refugee experts recommended by bar and civil society associations, as well as regional experts for Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and professors. They attended workshops on a regular basis in order to continuously enhance their expertise. Recently, the Government had started considering the establishment of an independent body which would handle appeal cases.

Foreigners in detention could live freely in immigration detention accommodation equipped with all the necessary facilities; they could freely meet with visitors. Medical doctors and nurses regularly checked their conditions, and, if necessary, medical specialists from external hospitals provided additional care. Sports activities were made available two to three times per week.

Human rights education was carried out by the joint effort of several agencies. A mechanism was in place for evaluating the effectiveness of such education. The Ministry of Education and Labour, for example, provided training on forced labour and human trafficking. Education on international human rights covenants was conducted through small group training programmes and via the Internet. Foreign workers were informed of ways to report human rights abuses, should they occur.

Regarding petitions filed against the police for violence, the delegation said that the increase was due to an increased human rights awareness and an active public information campaign in that regard. The increase was also due to a social atmosphere which placed further emphasis on human rights protection.

Un-convicted inmates were held in detention facilities inside police stations, known as substitute cells, if there were no correctional facilities nearby, stated a delegate.

There were 58,000 detainees in the Republic of Korea, 6.8 per cent of whom were female. Of all total prison officers, some 8.8 percent were female. Female prisoners who gave birth were given regular medical care. If inmates had been sexually violated, they could file a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice, among others. Inmates were provided with adequate actions for safety, and had access to counselling with professional psychiatrists.

The Human Rights Bureau within the Ministry of Justice received complaints from agencies and bodies associated with the Ministry, while the National Human Rights Commission dealt with human rights infringements connected not only with the Ministry of Justice, but with a much broader sphere. Various remedies were provided, including financial settlement. Since its establishment, the Commission had made numerous recommendations on how to improve the treatment of inmates, many of which had been adopted, including, for example, the need to respond to medical emergencies at night and during national holidays.

Referring to investigations of torture and ill-treatment, the delegation explained that from 2006 to 2016, courts had passed judgements on dozens of people for various related offences. The National Human Rights Commission investigated cases and filed complaints against involved agencies. A victim of torture could file a complaint with the Ministry of Justice’s hotline centre or also file a petition with the Minister of Justice. There was no direct support system targeted only at victims of torture, but those (and other) victims were provided with counselling services.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission sought social unity rather than criminal punishment regarding cases from the past, the delegation explained. Damage claims against the State were accepted.

Upon the enforcement of the refugee act in 2013, refugee status applicants were fully guaranteed procedural rights by the Government. They were assisted by a defence counsel and could have a person of trust present during the interview. They could have an interpreter and access their interview records in a language they understood.

Investigations of immigration act violations should not exceed 10 days, said a delegate. If a foreigner could not be deported immediately, he or she could be placed in a detention centre until deportation was made possible. A limit of the detention period could lead to abuses of application procedures; a lapse of such a limited detention period could cause serious side effects in the application of regulations on foreigners in the Republic of Korea. Hence, it required careful deliberation.

Children of undocumented foreigners were allowed to stay in the country until they completed their schooling. Deportation was suspended for them and their parents until that point. The authorities refrained from placing children under detention to the degree possible.

Provisions were in place to ensure that counter-terrorism activities did not violate human rights. Suspects of terrorism were guaranteed procedural rights, such as the right to remain silent and the right to a counsel. The definition of terrorism came directly from relevant international conventions and was in compliance with international standards. The principle of universality was applied so that those who conducted terrorist acts outside of the Republic of Korea were also subjected to the law.

On homosexual acts in the military, a delegate explained that sound communal living was promoted in the military. Indecent acts among soldiers, such as anal sex, undermined such legislative purpose, and were punishable, regardless of mutual consent or their location. In July 2016, the Constitutional Court had ruled that there were no limitations on time and place of such acts; the military was of the same opinion.

As for defectors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the delegation said that necessary investigations were conducted to determine their need for protection; their detention was clearly different from detaining criminal suspects. One-on-one interviews with attorneys were assured. There was no case in which habeas corpus had been applied.

New detention facilities were being constructed in order to secure at least 3.2 square meters per person; the four square meter per person standard would be considered in the future. Criminal punishment without detention could not serve as a fundamental solution, stressed the delegation.

Solitary confinement in military correctional facilities was allowed for up to 30 days. It was used restrictively and only when there was a grave violation. It was ensured that no excessive penalties were applied.

Judges were allowed to work until they reached their retirement age, said the delegation. The Judges Personnel Committee helped ensure independence of the judiciary.

Concerning the national security act, the delegation said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to engage in nuclear tests and other armed provocations against the Republic of Korea. As such, the national security act was not a temporary law, as long as there was a threat coming from that country.

Investigation agencies were making their utmost efforts to ensure that non-coercive methods of investigation became fully embedded. Human rights training and awareness-raising activities were taking place continuously. Investigation agencies did not, in principle, handcuff those under investigation. It was used only in exceptional cases, when escape, violence or self-injury could be reasonably expected.

All inmates received medical check-ups on a regular basis, so that they could receive appropriate medical treatments, if and when needed. It was incorrect to claim that the increase of deaths due to illness was because of the lack of medical care. Construction of a medical prison was underway for critically ill patients.

Ten centres across the country had been established to provide counselling and medical support for victims of sexual violence. Until 2016, those centres had offered their services in more than 100,000 cases. Another eight centres were foreseen to open in the coming years.

A study on military suicides had been conducted, with the view of preventing such suicides. They were attributable to multiple factors. To prevent suicides, the military was constantly thriving to overhaul its culture. As a result, the number of military suicides had substantially decreased over the previous decade.

Regarding civil sector monitoring of detention facilities, it was explained that there was a need for a multifaceted review. If a non-governmental organization was designated as an investigator, it could gain access to facilities for human rights monitoring.

Follow-up Questions

ANA RACU, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Republic of Korea, asked for an update on the progress made in bringing the criminal code in line with the Convention when it came to the definition of torture and the abolition of the death penalty. When would all death penalties be replaced with life in prison?

How many persons were detained under Article 7 of the national security act, which was the most criticized article of the controversial law? How many probation sentences had been imposed, asked the Expert.

Information was also sought on the results of monitoring visits to detention facilities. There was no legal basis for non-governmental organizations to participate in monitoring visits to places of detention, which was very regrettable, the Expert said.

How many police officers had been prosecuted, and what kind of sanctions had been applied to them, for the excessive use of force during the protests of November 2015?

The State party was encouraged to eliminate delays in access to a lawyer during investigations.

Did the existing medical staff in detention facilities have sufficient qualifications, did they receive regular training, and was it numerous enough, given the increasing number of people in custody?

More information was needed on violent incidents among minors in detention, which were reported to be increasing. What measures did the State party take to prevent violence against minors, asked the Expert? How about the shortage of staff in juvenile facilities? A question was also asked about the treatment of migrant children.

There were reportedly no female police officers in substitute jails, and women inmates in such jails had no privacy. The delegation was asked to provide clarity.

SAPANA PRADHAN-MALLA, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Republic of Korea, referred to the role of the justice system in preventing torture, and asked for further details.

What was the total capacity of prisons, she asked?

Had the authorities ever consulted with the victims of torture and their families on what kind of reparations they wished and would be most appropriate.

Did the State party intend to amend the anti-terrorism act, with the view of ensuring respect for fundamental human rights, in line with key international human rights covenants.

On marital rape, a question was asked about legislative measures which would explicitly criminalize it.

The Committee wanted to hear more about addressing hate crimes against gay persons in the Republic of Korea. Why was the conviction rate so low?

Escapees from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be detained for the shortest possible period, said Ms. Pradhan-Malla. What were the legal grounds for long-term detention and why were there criminal investigations in place? The habeas corpus ought to be applied.

The delegation was also asked whether the Human Rights Commission had unrestricted access to all places of deprivation of liberty.

Another Expert said that, according to international standards for the treatment of prisoners, the maximum period in solitary confinement was 15 days. How come persons could be kept in solitary confinement in military detention facilities for up to 30 days?

An Expert asked a question on the intervention of the chief justice on 10-year appraisals of judges.

Were doctors and medical staff in prisons trained on the Istanbul Protocol? More details were also sought on suicides in prisons.

What happened if signs of injury were identified by a prison warden or a qualified medical doctor? What were the procedures, how was such a case reported and investigated? Did the detainee have the right to have a copy of the medical record?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that the Korean delegation would prepare a written reply regarding comfort women.

Relating to the abolition of the death penalty, the delegation said that the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court had established the constitutionality of the death penalty system. The issue would need to be looked into in a very comprehensive manner.

Those held in solitary confinement for violating the national security act were provided with the same treatment as other inmates; there were currently 45 people in prison for violating that law. Risks of recidivism were carefully reviewed by the authorities.

Concerning the death of the farmer following the use of water cannons, an investigation was currently underway, and videos of the protest were being viewed. In order to prevent the recurrence of such incidents, guidelines on the use of force would be reviewed.

The right to legal counsel to participate in a suspect’s interrogation was fully guaranteed, unless exceptionally, when it would cause a disruption of the investigations.

Corporal punishment against children was prohibited; people working in child care facilities, if they committed such offences, would be prohibited from working there for 10 years.

The anti-terrorism act was being currently enforced. The National Intelligence Service was given authority to collect information on suspected dangerous persons connected with terrorism.

On juvenile detention facilities, the delegation said that medical staff working there were qualified. In the future, a more sound culture was to be created, including character education, which should lead to a decrease in violence. Space per person had been expanded, confirmed the delegation.

The overall capacity for female inmates stood at 4,700; and currently there were 5,800 inmates, out of whom 1,100 were persons with disabilities. The authorities were working on establishing women-only prisons.

Concluding Remarks

KWON JEONG HOON, Director-General of the Human Rights Bureau at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Korea, said that the dialogue had been meaningful, and the delegation had been able to brief the Committee on the progress made thus far. The delegation wanted to demonstrate the State party’s commitment to the Convention against Torture. The spirit of the Convention would be implemented to the fullest manner possible.

__________

For use of the information media; not an official record