Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Independence of National Human Rights Commission of Korea is at risk

Republic of Korea: Independence of National Human Rights Commission of Korea is at risk
ISSUES: National human rights institution

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) is in danger of loosing its independence, through a draft by the Presidential Transition Committee (PTC) on 16 January 2008 placing the commission under the control of the incoming president. On January 25, the draft will be considered at the Government Administration Committee, National Assembly.

Your urgent intervention is needed to save its independence. DETAILED INFORMATION: The Presidential Transition Committee (PTC) was formed after Mr. Lee Myung-bak was elected as the President of Republic of Korea in December 2007. They have now produced a draft concerning the reorganisation of the government institutions which recommends that the NHRCK is to be under the direct control of the Office of the President.

The PTC headed by Ms. Lee Kyung-sook made three reasons for the transition. The reasons are 1) there are a large number of committees within the government and they impede the responsible administration and prevent speedy decision making; 2) the current status of the NHRCK, which does not belong to any government institution either the administration, legislation or judicature violates the principle of separation of the three powers stipulated by Korean Constitution; 3) the NHRCK has to transit in order to normalise its status which has been too much high.

According to the information received, however, the opinion that any government organisation except the Constitutional institution has to belong to administration, legislation or judicature from the PTC is baseless. In order for the opinion to valid, the Act on the NHRCK which is legal basis of its establishment should have been 'unconstitutional' or there should have been a flaw at the time of the legislation. In fact it fulfils article 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, which stipulates "Recognising the inviolable fundamental rights that an individual has, the state has accountabilities to ensure them" After this recommendation, Ms. Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights immediately wrote a statement to the chairperson of the PTC, asking her to reconsider the plan.

The NHRCK also made a statement to express its deep concern about the threat to its independence. On January 18, the PTC asked the Government Administration Committee, National Assembly to consider the draft and the Government Administration Committee is scheduled to consider it on January 25. There is a strong possibility of the draft being passed at the National Assembly on January 28.


The NHRCK was established in 25 November 2001 after several discussions by various sectors in Korea over a three year period. While the military government followed by the Japanese colonial had ruled the society for several years, the prosecution, as an investigating agency, had played a leading role in violating human rights and the judicature had not fulfilled its role as a last resort to protect and promote the human rights of the people in the country. With the acknowledgment of this situation, people participating in the discussion of the establishment of the NHRCK had agreed to guarantee its independence from any government powers.

The act on the National Human Rights Commission also provides the authority of the NHRCK to monitor the human rights violation by the law enforcement agencies. There is no exception to this by the administration or the President. However if the NHRCK is to be under the direct control of the President, there is the possibility of the pursuit of political decisions of the President. The debate on its independence originally comes from the "Paris Principles", which was adopted by General Assembly resolution 48/134 on December 1993. There is no doubt that independence is the cornerstone of its effectiveness and its very existence.


Please join the signature campaign to save the NHRCK from the threats to its independence. Please also indicate your organisation's name or private. Your signature petition will be directly delivered to the Parliament Members of the Republic of Korea.

Thank you.
Urgent Appeals ProgrammeAsian Human Rights Commission (

Urgent Appeal General: AHRC-UAG-002-2008
19 January 2008

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