Monday, June 12, 2017

Revolt of the judges

South Korean judges keep acquitting conscientious objectors, despite the country's Constitutional Court's refusal so far to recognize conscientious objection. Here's the latest Korea Times report. Excerpt:
A local court ruled in favor of three conscientious objectors who refused to serve in the Korean military, Thursday, bringing the number of people acquitted to 30. Amnesty International and human rights activists welcomed the verdict, calling it significant progress. They also expect alternative service to become available under the Moon Jae-in administration, one of Moon's pledges during his presidential campaign. 
A district court in Daegu ruled Thursday that "conscientious objection is just" as denying this would be a "violation of conscientiousness," a right protected by the Constitution. 
This goes against conventional upper court and Constitutional Court rulings that have put 190,000 men in prison since the 1950-53 Korean War. About 500 to 600 men are imprisoned per year on average for refusing to serve their around two-year compulsory military duties as mandated by the Military Service Act. At least 397 objectors were imprisoned as of the end of April, according to an Amnesty International report. 
Amnesty International Korea welcomed the news. "Since 2015, a surge of lower court rulings has found conscientious objectors not guilty. It's a significant trend," its representative Park Seung-ho said.

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