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South Korea court rules ban on nighttime assemblies unconstitutional

[JURIST] The South Korean Constitutional Court [official website, in Korean] ruled Thursday that a ban on nighttime assemblies is an unconstitutional violation of the right to free assembly. The court gave the National Assembly until June 30, 2010, to amend [Hankyoreh report] Article 10 of the Assembly and Demonstration Law [text, PDF, in Korean], which bans outdoor assemblies and demonstrations prior to sunrise and after sunset, finding that it violates the country's constitution [text]. The ruling came in the case of a man charged with organizing a street rally over imported beef and mad-cow disease at night, in which a district court asked the Constitutional Court to decide the constitutionality [Seoul Times report] of the law. Rights groups have welcomed the ruling, and one Korean law professor said [Hankyoreh op-ed] he "hope[s] this decision by the Constitutional Court will provide a starting point for straightening out the distorted 'law and order' that has been put in place based on the Assembly and Demonstration Law."

South Korea's Assembly and Demonstration law was enacted in 1962. Article 10 prohibits outdoor rallies after sunset without permission. Those who rally at night without prior approval face fines and jail time [AFP report]. The provision was previously upheld by the Constitutional Court in 1994.

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