Human rights groups condemn repatriation of N Korean suspects to ‘almost-certain execution’

09-Nov-2019 Intellasia | The Telegraph | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Human rights groups have condemned the decision by Seoul to repatriate two North Korean fishermen accused of murder, insisting that the men will not receive fair trials and face “torture and almost-certain execution”.

It is the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that the South has forcibly deported North Koreans seeking asylum.

The two men, who have not been named but are understood to both be in their 20s, were handed over to North Korean officials shortly after 3 pm on Thursday at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

The incident began on Saturday, when South Korean navy personnel boarded a 17-tonne squid fishing boat off the west coast of the peninsula, with the two men taken to a nearby port for questioning.

According to officials of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, the two men admitted that they and another member of the vessel’s crew had killed the captain in late October because he had been abusive. The men added that they then killed the other 15 crew of the ship and threw their bodies overboard.

The three men attempted to return to North Korea, but one of the men was detained by local police and the other two returned to the boat and put to sea again.

The men asked for asylum in South Korea but, after a three-day investigation, the request was denied.

Lee Sang-min, a spokesman for the ministry, said the fishermen were “heinous criminals” who did not deserve to be recognised as refugees. In a press conference, Lee added that the men “could pose a threat to the lives and safety of our people”.

Human rights groups have questioned the ministry’s conclusion that the two men murdered all their fellow crew members and the haste of its three-day inquiry, as well as the decision to return them to North Korea.

“As we know from decades of research into how North Korea treats its citizens, there is no doubt that the two deportees have been returned to a place where they face no due process, harsh punishment, torture and almost-certain execution”, said Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

The regime in Pyongyang “has been denounced by the United Nations as having committed systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights and crimes against humanity”, the organisation said in a statement issued to The Telegraph.

“This is the first time that it has sent North Koreans back against their will”, it added. “In doing so, South Korea has undermined its national constitution, which recognises all North Koreans as citizens of South Korea, granting them the right to live in the South and be protected by its legal system”.

The deportation of the men was “The result of a cursory investigation”, Scarlatoiu said, and “creates serious moral, ethical and legal concerns”.

That position has been echoed by Joshua Stanton, a Washington-based human rights lawyer, said the decision sets a “dangerous precedent”.

“You have legitimised a system in North Korea that routinely tortures, that denies due process, that punishes with extraordinary brutality. South Korea has now implicitly recognised that that is a legitimate justice system and it is not”, he told Radio Free Asia, adding that the decision may have also contravened international law.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/human-rights-groups-condemn-repatriation-043414306.html

 


Category: Korea

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