SOUTH KOREA. CONSTITUTIONALITY OF DEATH PENALTY TO BE REVIEWED
October 3, 2008: in South Korea a provincial court has challenged the constitutionality of the current law legalizing capital punishment amid an intensifying tug-of-war between courts and human rights groups at home and overseas to abolish the capital punishment.
The Gwangju High Court has filed a petition with the Constitutional Court on behalf of a convicted prisoner, who is in detention on homicide charges.
Civilians or civic groups have lodged several petitions but this is the first case that a local court filed a constitutional petition on the internationally sensitive issue. The latest ruling, which stuck to current law, was made in 1996.
A 70-year-old fisherman was sentenced to death in the first trial for killing four tourists, who were on board his fishing boat. He asked his appellate court judge to file the petition, alleging ``capital punishment is unconstitutional.'' Accepting his suggestion, the appellate trial will be suspended until the Constitutional Court reviews the petition.
The presiding judge of the trial said, ``At the time of the latest constitutional ruling on the death penalty in 1996, the Constitutional Court stated it was constitutional although it indicated the need to scrap the capital punishment on a long term basisâ.
According to the Ministry of Justice, 58 convicted are now behind bars awaiting the death penalty. (Sources: Koreatimes, 03/10/2008)