World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


South Korea: Stop arrests of trade union leaders

24 December 2013

South Korea: Stop arrests of trade union leaders and respect the rights of striking workers

The South Korean authorities must rein in the police and respect the rights of striking workers, Amnesty International said after a massive police raid on the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in Seoul on Sunday.

“This police raid violated international human rights and labour standards in many ways – from arresting trade union leaders in retaliation for strike action to the police using unnecessary and excessive force that resulted in workers being injured,” said Polly Truscott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“The South Korean authorities must stop unlawful police raids and arrests of trade unionists, and respect the rights of striking workers.”

Some 130 trade unionists were arrested on Sunday when thousands of police raided the headquarters of the KCTU, in response to a strike by railway workers over fears that large-scale layoffs may be looming. Several workers were injured when police used pepper spray.

The police raid, which was carried out without a search warrant, was the first on the KCTU’s headquarters since it was given legal status in 1999.

The strike began on 9 December in protest at a decision by Korea Railroad (KORAIL) to set up a separate company to run a new bullet train line. The Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU) – which is part of the KCTU – fears the move would lead to a privatization of KORAIL and large-scale layoffs.

In earlier raids on two KRWU offices in Seoul on 17 December, some 30 police officials seized computer hard drives and confidential documents. Two days later, police seized more hard drives and documents in simultaneous raids of the four regional head offices of the KRWU in Daejeon, Busan, Suncheon and Yeongju.

On 18 December Prime Minister Chung Hong-won reportedly branded the railway workers’ strike “illegal” and said the government would counter the industrial action with stern measures.

KORAIL subsequently suspended 7,927 workers participating in the strike as a disciplinary action. Warrants for arrests of 28 union officers were issued based on criminal charges of ‘obstruction of businesses’ and two union leaders were arrested. KORAIL has also filed a lawsuit worth 7.7 billion won (about USD 7.25 million) in damages against the KRWU and its 186 leaders. These developments are in direct contravention of internationally recognized labour standards.

“This is a blatant attempt by the Korean authorities to deny the rights of striking workers and to cripple the legitimate work of the trade union. It is a clear breach of international standards,” said Polly Truscott.

Amnesty International cautioned the South Korean authorities that, even if police intervention becomes necessary because strikers’ actions present a substantial risk of violence to persons or serious damage to property, the police must comply with international standards. These include the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, which underlines that the use of force should be exceptional and states that law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

Background
Amnesty International is concerned that the current dispute may result in a repeat of the abuses of workers’ rights that occurred during a previous rail workers’ strike in 2009, which were harshly criticized by the International Labour Organization Committee on Freedom of Association (ILO CFA) in November 2012.

In that strike, close to 200 union officers were dismissed, and 15,000 members were subject to disciplinary sanction. The ILO CFA called for the “immediate dropping of criminal charges (both fines and prison sentences) brought under Section 314 of the Penal Code (‘obstruction of business’) against union officials and members” of the KRWU who had participated in the strike, “the immediate reinstatement” of dismissed KRWU members and the lifting of all related disciplinary measures.

To date, the government has failed to implement the ILO’s recommendations in that case.

AI Index: PRE01/676/2013

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Whaling: Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research In Defiance Of World Court Ruling

The ICR Today Filed Court Briefs Stating They Intend to Return to Antarctica to Hunt Whales in 2015-2016; Will Seek to Enjoin Other Sea Shepherd Entities from Obstructing Their Operations More>>

Ukraine: UN Urges 'Maximum Restraint' Amid Situation In East Ukraine

Deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for maximum restraint and appealed to all sides to work towards calming the situation, which has the 'growing potential' to ... More>>

United Nations: Children Can Now Lodge Complaints With The UN

GENEVA (14 April 2014) – United Nations child rights experts have hailed a new treaty that allows children to complain directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about alleged violations of their rights. More>>

India: Election But A Ritual In Nation Lacking Rule Of Law

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) congratulates the people of India for their participation to elect the 16th Lok Sabha. The process has attracted, as usual, considerable media attention across the world. Media claims the process to be 'the largest democratic ... More>>

Solomon Islands: Thousands Remain Affected After Flash Floods

An estimated 52,000 people remain affected in the worst-hit areas of Honiara and greater Guadalcanal following last week’s devastating floods which killed at least 23 people. More>>

ALSO:

World: Some 437,000 People Murdered Worldwide In 2012 - UN

Almost half a million people across the world lost their lives in 2012 as a result of intentional homicide, with the highest murder rates logged in the Americas and Africa, and the lowest in Europe, Asia and Oceania, the United Nations Office on ... More>>

Central African Republic:: Security Council Establishes UN Peacekeeping Mission

Deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation and ongoing human rights abuses in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Security Council today approved the establishment of a nearly 12,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping operation ... More>>

ALSO:

Parliament: NZ Sending Aid Flight To Solomons

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has announced further support for the response to severe flooding in Solomon Islands. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news