Home > National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Rule of Law > National Human Rights Commission of Korea stopped abuse use of police’s handcuffs

National Human Rights Commission of Korea stopped abuse use of police’s handcuffs

By MyungJin Lee

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) has stopped police abuse of handcuffs on potential suspects. According to the NHRCK’s recent decision, it has determined that the unnecessary use of handcuffs and ropes violates personal freedom as guaranteed under Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea.

Under law police officers are required to not violate the human rights of arrested and detained suspects, particularly the right to self-defense without being psychologically strained during investigation conducted by law enforcement officials. Therefore, such devices like handcuffs and ropes should only be used when there are evident risks of flight, violence, disturbance, self-injury, and so forth.

However, Lee, one of the victims who filed complaints to the NHRCK last January, was handcuffed without reasonable doubt last January when he visited a police station in Gyeonggi province. When entering, Lee had no idea that he was turning himself into law enforcement officers as he was “wanted” for failing to pay a 700,000 won fine ($700). Lee felt shame and believed his rights were disturbed by police officials, particularly as he was handcuffed for failing to pay a fine and not for any serious offense. One of the police officers said in the interview with Korea Herald that he handcuffed Lee because “he seemed possible to flee.” However, there were no circumstances substantiating that the complainant was about to flee or injure himself while being questioned as a suspect.

In a similar case to Lee, another complainant, Kim, was handcuffed because of smoking in a police station and refusing to answer questions during his investigation. His right to refuse to make any self-incriminating statements was violated. Furthermore, applicable regulations prohibit police officers from using police devices on such grounds.

The NHRCK additionally figures that many police stations including other Seoul branches violate detainees’ human rights in similar cases, and has ordered the police department to strengthen human rights education for its law enforcement personnel and admonish the police officers who are related to this matter. The NHRCK expects this strong decision to prevent further recurrences.

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