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Clear Procedures Needed to Select Suitable Commissioner

November 26, 2010
A Statement from the Joint Statement by Law Professors and Lawyers Urging for the Resignation of Hyun Byung Chul, Chief Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

SOUTH KOREA: "Hyun Byung Chul should be responsible for crippling the operations of the NHRCK and must resign"

"Clear Procedures Needed to Select Suitable Commissioner"
November 10, 2010

The resignation of Yu Nam Young and Mun Kyung Ran, 2 Standing Commissioner of National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), shows that the crippling of the NHRCK has reached its limit. We, law professors and lawyers, assert that the immediate resignation of Hyun Byung Chul, the Chief Commissioner of NHRCK is the starting point to solve this problem.

Our NHRCK, once considered as the model of National Human Rights Institution in the world, has fallen into a crisis since Transitional Committee of Lee Myung Bak in 2008. The Transitional Committee failed to make the NHRCK a presidential organization due to opposition by NGOs and the public, both domestic and international. After that time the government tried to incapacitate NHRCK's functions by scaling down 21% of the organization. Even though international NGOs sent written statements expressing concern over this problem, the government neglected them and during this process, Chief Commissioner Ahn Kyung Hwang resigned.

Newly appointed Hyun Byung Chul had had neither the experience nor specialty in human rights and had no will to protect the independence of the NHRCK. After his appointment, operations of the NHRCK were crippled. Even though the situation on human rights has worsened, the NHRCK was silent on politically sensitive cases. The opinions of some commissioners and staffs who tried to normalize the NHRCK were neglected and communications between the NHRCK and civil society have, for all intents and purposes, vanished. Most recently, a bill reducing the power of the Standing Commissioner Committee was submitted and, consequently two Standing Commissioners resigned.

Primary fault lies with Chief Commissioner Hyun Byung Chul. Hyun should be responsible for what has happened and must resign immediately. Additionally, the government should stop all attempts to influence the NHRCK and appoint a suitable Chief Commissioner by using open and democratic procedures. On top of that, the government must improve its process of selecting NHRCK's Commissioners.

We, law professors and lawyers, expected that the NHRCK would continually aid in securing basic human rights and fulfilling the values of the constitution and that is why we have worked from the beginning of the NHRCK to now. However, we are distressed that the NHRCK has come to this stage and keenly feel our responsibility. We will try our best to normalize the NHRCK.

Co-signed by 124 Law Professors and 210 Lawyers
# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.

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