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Statement by the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on the 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty
Date : 2023.10.26 11:26:15 Hits : 444

Statement by the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on the 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty

- It is desirable to discuss the introduction of absolute life imprisonment along with the abolition of the death penalty-


   This is a statement by the chairperson Song Doo-hwan of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea calling for societal discourse on the abolition of the death penalty in the Republic of Korea on the 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10).

 

 As Korea has not carried out any executions in the past 26 years since the execution in December 1997, Amnesty International classified the Republic of Korea as “abolitionist de facto.” The Korean government voted for the resolution on the moratorium(delay) of executions in December 2020 at the United Nations General Assembly for the first time. The government maintained is position in favor of the same resolution in December last year. However, Korea retains the death penalty in law and 59 people are currently sentenced to death and imprisoned.

 

  The government recently announced a bill to amend the criminal law by adding absolute life sentence without parole as part of types of life imprisonment, allowing phased punishment according to severity of the crime. The government has collected opinions from the public on this proposal. Several bills to amend the criminal law have been proposed and will be discussed in the National Assembly along with other bills to be legislated. The NHRCK believes that now is the right time to discuss the abolition of the death penalty as the government is considering the introduction of absolute life imprisonment as one of the types of punishment.


   The discussion on the introduction of absolute life sentence without the option of parole was enabled by the international community calling for the abolition of the death penalty and an end to executions and the Korean government’s efforts to respond to this. Absolute life imprisonment has been proposed as an alternative to the death penalty, and many of those who are for death penalty responded in favor of the abolition of the death penalty when alternative punishment is introduced. Many counties that have abolished the death penalty have absolute life imprisonment as an alternative punishment.

 

  It is true that the recent violent crimes and increase in the severity of brutalities led to spread of anxiety among people. That’s why many people think that the death penalty needs to be retained and argue for executions. However, it is difficult to determine whether the retention or execution of the death penalty will be effective in deterring heinous crimes.

 

  I hope we’d be able to reflect on the very nature of the death penalty as it violates the essence of the right to life. It is an inhumane punishment in that a state artificially deprives citizens of life and the punishment violates the right to life, which is the premise of all fundamental rights. Therefore, human dignity can never be respected with the death penalty.

 

  Moreover, the abolition of the death penalty is a global trend. Today, 112 countries around the world have completely abolished the death penalty. In the UN Human Rights Council’s 4th Universal Periodic Review of the Republic of Korea held in January this year, many countries recommended a total of 263 human rights tasks to Korea, including the abolition of the death penalty. The Korean government has expressed its willingness to accept many of the recommendations proposed by the countries, but unfortunately, it has not expressed its willingness to accept some of the recommendations, and one of them was the abolition of the death penalty.

 

  Celebrating 2023 World Day Against the Death Penalty, I hope that the Korean government will consider the abolition of the death penalty when discussing the introduction of absolute life imprisonment and be more proactive in considering joining the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which aims to abolish the death penalty.

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