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Asian NGOs condemn South Korea’s plan to control its National Human Rights Commission

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Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) has expressed their “deep concern” over the proposal of the Presidential Transition Committee of South Korea to place the National Human Rights Commission under its “direct control” next month.
(Bangkok) A network of Asian NGOs has urged South Korea’s Presidential Transition Committee to “withdraw immediately” its plan to place the country’s human rights commission under their “direct control”.

Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) said this proposal will “severely affect the independence and effectiveness of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) in promoting and protecting human rights in the country”.

It also indicates “the lack of understanding” of the role of a national human rights institution and a threat to the commission’s independence and credibility,” claimed ANNI, in its statement on 21 January.

The recommendation, made by Lee Kyung-sook, Chairperson of the Presidential Transition Committee of South Korea, on 16 January, was contradictory to the principles relating to the status of National Institutions (NHRIs), known as the Paris Principles. The principles, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, clearly provide for independence of NHRIs.

The intended placement “could also impact on public perceptions of its independence and compliance with the internationally accepted benchmarks for NHRIs, the Paris Principles”, said Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a letter to Lee on 17 January. She urged the Presidential Transition Committee to “consider reviewing any plans which might affect the independence of the NHRCK”.

NHRCK was founded in 2001 after a three-year-long effort of human rights defenders to implement the recommendations adopted at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna.

The NHRCK has been regarded as a model for other countries, and was the Chair of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) in 2007 and Vice Chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC).

ANNI said that “This proposal threatens the very existence of a body that has always been a beacon of independence and credibility among other national institutions in Asia and the world”.

ANNI is a network of 19 human rights organisations, including FORUM-ASIA member organisations, engaged with national human rights institutions in Asia. It aims to ensure the accountability of these bodies for the promotion and protection of human rights.