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Fact finding mission report on South Korea show police violence in rallies

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s_korea.jpgTwo regional human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs)- FORUM-ASIA and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) located in Hong Kong-conducted a fact-finding mission from 21-24 July 2008, in Seoul, South Korea, to examine human rights violations during the daily candlelight vigils that have been held since May 2.

The specific focus of the mission was curbs on freedom of opinion and expression and riot police attacks on human rights defenders-lawyers, journalists and medical workers-at the vigils, which have been held to protest the April 18 agreement with the U.S. government to import U.S. beef into South Korea.

 The vigil participants have been concerned about insufficient safeguards to protect people from contracting mad cow disease, i.e., threats to people's right to health.

The mission met with South Korean NGOs and human rights defenders who have been affected by the police violence at the vigils as well as government officials.

Attempts to meet with additional government officials, especially in the Ministry of Justice and National Police Agency, were not successful, and a visit with several people arrested at the vigils was not granted by the Seoul Detention Center.

The mission's findings are contained in a 63-paged report, which, in short, ascertained that riot police have violently attacked human rights defenders at the vigils who have been clearly identified as lawyers, journalists or medical workers as well as brutally assaulting protesters.

Moreover, the police have ignored the instructions in their own police manual about the use of such equipment as water cannons and fire extinguishers as well as batons and police shields. A number of organizers of the vigils have also been arrested under a law that prohibits public assemblies at night.

Among the recommendations of the mission is the need to amend this law, the Act on Assembly and Demonstration, as soon as possible to remove this prohibition and to end the use of conscripted young men in the riot police.

Read the full report HERE.