On 15 August 2017, an urgent Communication was submitted to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva. It outlined that the on-going detention and treatment of President Park Geun-hye in South Korea, particularly in light of her deteriorating health, constituted a violation of her fundamental human rights, including her right against arbitrary detention, her right against inhuman and degrading treatment, and her right to a fair trial. It is a matter of extreme concern that the national courts have refused President Park’s repeated requests to be released during her trial, without proper justification, even though she is ill and has collapsed in court.
The Communication, which was also submitted directly to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has asked for an urgent finding that President Park’s detention is arbitrary and unlawful under international law, especially since she has not been granted provisional release to receive effective medical treatment and care; that President Park has been treated in an inhuman and degrading manner; and, that her trial is marred by procedural and other irregularities which undermine her rights to a fair trial.
The urgent Communication was submitted on the instructions of President Park’s family, close associates and supporters, by an international legal team led international human rights law Barrister, Rodney Dixon QC, and the President of the MH Group, Dr. Mishana Hosseinioun.
Given new reports that President Park will be sentenced on 17 October in the national proceedings, the international legal team urges the Working Group swiftly to consider and decide on the Communication, and to take immediate steps to guarantee President’s Park fundamental rights. The team is in direct contact with the Working Group to obtain an expedited outcome.
President Park has been detained in South Korea for almost six months following impeachment proceedings that were plainly politically motivated and not based on cogent and credible legal and evidential considerations. President Park was denied the right to be presumed innocent. Her treatment in detention can only be described as inhuman and degrading, and has included sleep deprivation, abusive and coercive interrogations, and excessively rough treatment that has left her with bruises from handcuffs.
She has been denied regular and effective medical treatment for several chronic and painful medical conditions, and was deprived of essential medical care after collapsing in court. Despite the pressing matter of her deteriorating health, exacerbated by her continued detention, she has been denied any opportunity to receive adequate medical care through provisional release or options of house arrest. All of her efforts to secure provisional release have fallen on deaf ears and been denied without good reason. It is internationally accepted that detention is the exception under international human rights standards, and is only justified in exceptional circumstances. None of these pertain in the present case which does not concern violent crimes; President Park is not a flight risk; and she presents no danger to any witnesses and will not interfere in the proceedings. She is in dire need of medical care outside of prison. There is simply no reason to detain her while her trial continues.
In addition, the criminal proceedings against her for bribery and other charges have been characterised by serious irregularities which demonstrate that President Park’s right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal has been violated. Her continued detention is therefore arbitrary. This is highlighted by an artificially expedited and unduly protracted trial schedule that denies President Park the ability adequately to prepare for, and fully participate in, the proceedings. It is also evident in the fact that interrogators have used coercive and abusive interrogation techniques against her, and her co-accused likely to provide evidence adverse to her, in order to obtain confessions and evidence. These interrogations have included severe sleep deprivation and threats of physical harm or arrest against those interviewed and their families.
Given the very serious and continuing human rights violations committed against President Park, the international legal team will be bringing these breaches to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Republic of Korea’s human rights’ compliance in November 2017. The violations that President Park has endured are a stain on South Korea’s human rights’ record, and the UPR will provide a unique opportunity for the UN to address the matter head-on.
The international legal team will be making representations to all relevant UN bodies, and Governments, to intervene to have President Park released without delay and to be able to receive the necessary medical attention.