Regarding our previous appeal (http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2002/298/) and update (http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2002/319/) about demands to amend the Special Act to Find the Truth on Suspicious Deaths in South Korea, we have been informed that the Korean National Assembly passed the amended legislation on Nov. 14, 2002, allowing the mandate of the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths (PTCSD) to be extended for a maximum of one more year. Moreover, under the amended law, the PTCSD has a little more power, such as the right to ask organisations to provide the records of all telephone calls, faxes and other forms of communication. Therefore, the PTCSD will resume their activities in about March of next year after the appointment of new commissioners.
Meanwhile, the family members of the victims of suspicious deaths completed their sit-down strike after 36 days on the street in front of the office of the Grand National Party in Seoul.
However, the victims’ family members and human rights organisations have condemned the passage of the amended law because the legislation has passed without containing the core powers that they demanded. These demands include strengthening the PTCSD by granting it the right to appoint special prosecutors, the right to seize and search the accused organisations and individuals, the right to investigate the bank accounts of the accused organisations and individuals and – the most important demand – to eliminate the statute of limitations from applying to crimes against humanity. Thus, they are again concerned whether the PTCSD can successfully reveal the truth about all of the country’s alleged suspicious deaths even though its mandate has been extended for one more year. In spite of the perceived weaknesses in the amended law, they have concentrated their efforts on resuming the PTCSD’s work for the present time but are willing to struggle again for the fourth time to amend the Special Act to Find the Truth on Suspicious Deaths in the future if necessary.
We are sending this update to you to draw your attention to this issue. However, no further action is needed at the present time.
Thank you for your solidarity.
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)