The international legal team for ex-President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, led by Rodney Dixon QC, barrister and human rights lawyer from London, and instructed by the international justice consultancy MH Group, is dismayed that the trial court in Seoul has extended her detention for a further 6 months. She has already been in prison for over 6 months during which time her health has markedly deteriorated without proper medical care. Ms Park is an elderly woman who suffers from chronic medical conditions which need constant and dedicated care that can only be properly administered out of prison.
It is most unfortunate that the court has held that Ms Park must remain in custody when there are no legitimate lawful grounds for depriving her of her liberty while her trial continues. Under accepted international standards, detention is the exception. It should only be ordered when absolutely necessary as persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The assertion of the prosecutor that Ms Park may not attend her hearings or attempt to destroy evidence are made without any substantiation. The court could in any event always impose conditions for provisional release or house arrest if there were any genuine and proven concerns. This would fairly balance Ms Park’s rights with those of the continuing prosecution.
The court’s decision is excessive and unduly harsh in the circumstances. Ms Park is ailing and vulnerable. She needs medical treatment out of custody. The extension is particularly punitive when there has been no verdict. The court has not even as yet heard the defence case.
It is for all of these reasons that the international legal team have filed a Communication with UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva, requesting that it intervene as swiftly as possible. The UN Working Group is seized of the case and dealing with it urgently. Dixon, instructed by MH Group on behalf of the ex-President, will also be filing a submission with UN Human Rights Council at the beginning of this week in light of the extension order, urging the Council and all member States to act promptly to protect Ms Park’s rights and well-being ahead of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of South Korea’s human rights record on 9 November 2017 in Geneva.
“The UN must act to uphold Ms Park’s rights to fair and decent treatment while on trial, and it is incumbent on the South Korean authorities to grant provisional release in accordance with long-standing international standards,” said Rodney Dixon QC. About the case, MH Group President and Oxford University lecturer, Dr Mishana Hosseinioun warned that “the proper handling or mishandling of former President Park’s case by the local justice system will be the true litmus test for the Moon government.”