South Korea high court rules death penalty constitutional

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Korea [official website, in Korean] ruled Thursday that the death penalty [JURIST news archive] does not violate the South Korean constitution [text, PDF]. The court's 5-4 decision could lead to a reinstatement of the death penalty in South Korea, which has held an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment [BBC report] since former president Kim Dae-Jung took office in 1998. Kim, who ruled from 1998 until his death in 2003, had opposed the death penalty [AFP report], but it is unclear whether the new government will uphold his 12-year precedent. The South Korean parliament [official website, in Korean] must vote on whether to reinstate capital punishment before any changes to the current system can take effect.

On Wednesday, UN Under-Secretary-General Sergei Ordzhonikidze [official profile] praised the increasing number of countries [JURIST report] that have suspended or abolished the death penalty. Speaking at the 4th World Congress Against the Death Penalty [FIDH backgrounder] in Geneva, Ordzhonikidze expressed hope that countries that have not abolished the death penalty would adopt the 2007 UN Resolution 62/149 [text], placing a moratorium on the use of capital punishment. Earlier this month, the Supreme People’s Court of China [official website, in Chinese] issued new guidelines for limiting capital punishment [JURIST report] in Chinese courts. The new rules instruct courts to issue the death penalty only to those who commit "extremely serious" crimes and allows reprieves for certain cases as allowed by law. Last month, Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia [official profile] announced that he would suspend [JURIST report, speech text] the death penalty and commute the sentences of all prisoners currently on death row to 30 years in prison. Tsakhia called for a permanent ban on the death penalty, saying that many mistakes are made in its administration, and that the system has been abused by those with power.



 

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