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Respect human rights defenders in Daechuri, Korea – Appeal

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Although FORUM-ASIA welcomes the release of human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Kim Ji Tae in South Korea, his release does not negate the fact that the police have failed in their obligation to protect Kim as a human rights defender. He was arrested after spearheading an ongoing call to protect the rights of farmers and villagers in Daechuri village. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council and the country that the Secretary-General is from, South Korea must be at the forefront of protecting fundamental freedoms and the work of human rights defenders.FORUM-ASIA welcomes the release of the human rights defender of Daechuri village and prisoner of conscience, Kim Ji Tae on 28 December 2006. Kim Ji Tae was called in for questioning by the Pyeongtaek police on 6 June 2006 after having spearheaded the ongoing call to protect the rights of the farmers and villagers in Daechuri. Although Kim had voluntarily walked into the police station on that very day, he was never released and was instead jailed for charges of inciting violence.

Despite his release, however, we strongly assert that Kim's release does not negate the fact that the police has failed in their obligation to protect Kim as a human rights defender. Furthermore, the fact that Kim was released on bail only exacerbates the injustice perpetrated by the government as the charges against him still remain, and can be used by prosecutors to continue to demoralise and intimidate both human rights defenders and Daechuri residents.

FORUM-ASIA has been closely monitoring the work of human rights defenders in Daechuri, having issued a letter to the president of South Korea, calling for the immediate release of two detained human rights defenders arrested in March 2006; and a statement in May 2006, condemning the use of state violence during peaceful protests in the village.

The Human Rights Defenders Programme has also continuously participated in solidarity activities urging for the immediate release of Kim Ji Tae through a visit to the village of Daechuri. Since then, however, the situation of human rights defenders of Daechuri has only deteriorated.

We remind the government that freedom of expression and the promotion and protection of rights are inherent and inalienable human rights of all people, not only enshrined under South Korea’s Constitution but also in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both to which South Korea is a party to.  

The Declaration and Covenant guarantee the right of all persons to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights, as well as the right to freedom of assembly and expression. As a member of the Human Rights Council and country which the UN Secretary-General is from, South Korea must be at the forefront of protecting fundamental freedoms, legitimate and guaranteed work of human rights defenders, and must demonstrate its commitment to implementing their international human rights obligations.

We call on the government to not only immediately drop all charges against Kim Ji Tae, but to protect and support the ongoing peaceful protests and peace activities carried out by residents and human rights defenders concerned about the deprivation of livelihood of the people in Daechuri. Municipal authorities, the government and the Ministry of Defense have dispatched military personnel to hinder non-governmental organisations from assisting villagers and communicating with them. The military has already destroyed the personal belongings of human rights defenders and has cut off the electric supply to force them out of the village.

We urge the government to foster an atmosphere conducive to constructive dialogue with human rights defenders and allow them to offer protection to the villagers affected, and to also put an end to the use of violence and police intimidation against human rights defenders.

Anselmo Lee
Executive Director

For more information, please contact Heidi Han, Human Rights Defenders Programme ([email protected] / (66) 02 391 8801)