Korean conscientious objectors are set to step up their petition campaign with the next government and the international community.
A lawyer representing the 488 objectors said Monday they will file a petition with the presidential transition team this week to demand that their right to object be observed.
In addition, objectors plan to make their case with foreign embassies in Korea and the relevant United Nations institutions.
“Korea has ignored the international society’s recommendations on four consecutive occasions and arrested many objectors. This can provide ground for anyone to activate the United Nations 1503 Procedure, which is a petition against countries that exercise ‘consistent and gross violation of human rights’,” Oh Du-jin, a lawyer who defends objectors told The Korea Herald.
“As a result of the procedure, Korea can even lose its seat in the U.N. Human Rights Council.”
In their petition, objectors request that the government provide financial compensation for their time in prison and that their criminal records be erased. They claim that a pardon system and special laws should be implemented to this end.
“Providing an alternative service is a minimum international human rights requirement, so according to global standards we are performing extremely poorly in terms of human rights,“ says Baek Jong-keon, a human rights lawyer.
“This is quite shameful and unfit for an OECD and U.N. member country,” he told The Korea Herald.
Since the Korean War which broke out in 1950, an estimated 17,000 objectors have been imprisoned for objecting to military service due to religious and conscientious reasons. It is estimated that there are currently 700 objectors in prison at this time. Most of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
They are mostly sentenced to 18 months, and usually released on parole with about four months left before the end of their terms.
Despite eight constitutional reviews of the law and consistent efforts by human rights groups, alternative services for conscientious objectors have not been implemented thus far due to the military threat posed by North Korea and the lack of national support for the cause.
By Lee Sang-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org