SOUTH KOREA: Supreme Court upholds three years’ prison sentence for trade unionist Han Sang-gyun

Press release

Paris-Geneva, June 1, 2017 - South Korean authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU) President Mr. Han Sang-gyun, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) said today.

On May 31, 2017, South Korea’s Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals’ conviction of Mr. Han Sang-gyun and sentenced him to three years in prison in connection with a demonstration organised by KCTU in November 2015.

“Han Sang-gyun is being detained for the peaceful exercise of his rights. The decision of the Supreme Court is extremely disappointing all the more as it disregards South Korea’s obligations under international law and an Opinion recently adopted by a group of UN experts”, the Observatory said.

On April 25, 2017, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that Mr. Han Sang-gyun’s deprivation of liberty was arbitrary as it resulted from the exercise of his right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The WGAD called on the South Korean authorities to immediately release Mr. Han, and award him “compensation and other reparations” for the deprivation of liberty to which he has been subjected.

On July 4, 2016, Mr. Han Sang-gyun was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 500,000 Won (approximately 400 Euros) in connection with a demonstration organized by KCTU against proposed labour reforms in Seoul on November 14, 2015. During the rally, police used excessive force to disperse demonstrators. Authorities had previously issued arrest warrants against Han for his participation in peaceful demonstrations that had taken place in April and May 2015 to express solidarity with the victims of the Sewol Ferry disaster in April 2014. On December 13, 2016, a Court of Appeals reduced Mr. Han’s sentence to three years in prison.

“The South Korean Government must implement UN WGAD’s Opinion and end Han Sang-gyun’s arbitrary detention. The failure to release Han Sang-gyun is a missed opportunity for President Moon Jae-in to burnish his human rights credentials”, the Observatory concluded.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

For more information, please contact:
• FIDH: Samuel Hanryon (French, English): +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris) / Andrea Giorgetta (English): Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau (French, English): +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva)

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