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Presidential office says it may review introducing moratorium on death penalty

The presidential office said Tuesday it will review a moratorium on the nation’s death penalty system if the state human rights watchdog officially makes a request.

The National Human Rights Commission on Monday revealed plans for the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, including a proposal that President Moon Jae-in should announce a moratorium on the death penalty. 


(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Regarding the watchdog’s plan, the presidential office said the matter has not been discussed yet and would be reviewed if officially requested.

The human rights commission also said it is still at the planning stage to cooperate with the presidential office and other related government ministries.

In Korea, 61 people are in prison on the death sentence, as of 2018. However, the country has not conducted executions for over 20 years, since 1997, and is categorized as an abolitionist in practice by Amnesty International. If the moratorium is introduced, the execution of convicts will legally be prohibited.

The NHRC made a special report to the president in December last year, explaining its plans on several human rights issues, including the abolishment of the death penalty and allowing conscientious objectors. At the time, President Moon, who was a human rights lawyer, had ordered the watchdog to come up with detailed plans and solutions that are in step with international standards.

“Even if a moratorium is applied at the end of this year, we still have a long way to go to abolish the death penalty. It would be the beginning,” an official from the NHRC told The Korea Herald.

If a moratorium is called, one of the next steps the government would have to take is the signing of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is an international protocol aimed at abolition of the death penalty, according to the official.

The NHRC said it will conduct a survey on public sentiment on abolishing the death penalty and hold discussions and hearings over the result in the coming months. It will also issue a statement calling for efforts to abolish the death penalty, on Oct. 10, which marks World Day Against the Death Penalty.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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