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Official Statement Korean House for International Solidarity: Arrest and Detention of Ms. Moshrafa Mishu, a labour leader in Bangladesh

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Please see below statement by Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), FORUM-ASIA member in South Korea. They made a statement on the arrest and detention of Ms. Moshrafa Mishu, a labour leader in Bangladesh. Ms. Mishu, President of the Garment Workers Unity Forum (GWUF), was arrested by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police on 14 December 2010 without a warrant. According to KHIS, Ms. Mishu was arrested in relation to her activities during workers strike on 12-13 December 2010 against Youngwon Corporation, a Korean company in Bangladesh.

In total, 30 Korean organisations endorsed the statement, and Korean NGOs hold a press conference on 26 January 2011, in front of Bangladesh Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. For more details, please see below and the attachments.

Ms. Gayoon Baek
East Asia Programme Officer
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

__________________________________________________________________________KHIS- PDF: Press Statement-Bangladesh HRD-26 Jan 2011

The Government of Bangladesh should release a labour leader Ms. Moshrefa Mishu immediately!

Ms. Moshrefa Mishu (46), President of the Garment Workers Unity Forum (GWUF), was illegally arrested by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police at around 1am on 14 December 2010. According to Ms. Mishu, she had been under intelligence surveillance and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police illegally arrested her without an arrest warrant. Also, the Bangladesh government neither allowed Ms. Mishu, who suffers from asthma, to take necessary medication nor provided her adequate medical treatment. As a result, her condition has seriously deteriorated while in detention. Furthermore, the Bangladesh government threatened Ms. Mishu with death if she refused to cooperate with the government, while interrogating her for her union activities in garment industry for over 20 years. It is obvious that the arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Ms. Mishu is the irrational repression to labor movement by the Bangladesh government.

We are more concerned by Ms. Mishu’s case because her arbitrary detention is closely related to the recent massive protest organized by the garment industry workers on 12~13 December 2010. This protest was triggered by the workers of the Korean company called Youngwon Corporation, the biggest garment factory in Bangladesh. As been reported in the Korean press, thousands of workers protested in the center of Dhaka as well as the Chittagong free export zone (FEZ) where Youngwon Corporation is located, and called for the increase of the minimum monthly wage and improvement of working conditions. However, the Bangladesh police brutally suppressed protesters by using rubber bullets and tear bombs and as a result, four protesters died and over 200 were injured. Garment exports account for 80 percent of the county’s total exports and several Korean companies including Youngwon Corporation are standing on the heart of garment industry. The December protests became the momentum that raised big concern over the miserable condition of the Bangladeshi workers within the Korean society. More Korean people are now urging that the Korean garment companies in Bangladesh should be held accountable for the December crisis.

We strongly criticize the Bangladesh government’s illegal detaining of Ms. Mishu and denying providing her a proper medical treatment. These acts by the government, which clearly violated international human rights laws, is very shameful behavior and should be strongly blamed. We also urge the Bangladesh government to immediately stop arresting and abusing the union activists. It is shame to see that the Bangladesh government is repressing the labour leaders rather than making any effort to improve the severe working conditions of workers. Such repression by the Bangladesh government eventually forces workers to work under the poor work conditions with very low wages, while being the effective method to increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outflows. This gives us clear signal that the Bangladesh government would continue to violate rights of workers and ignore international criticism. The anti-human-rights capital attraction fever which is representing as free economic zone and free export zone in all the corners of the world including Bangladesh and Korea made the workers’ daily lives worse like a misery. In this regard, Ms. Mishu’s suffering cannot be separated from ours and we will strongly fight for Ms. Mishu with solidarity.

We particularly urge that the government of the Republic of Korea and Korean companies should also take responsibility for Ms. Mishu’s case. Many Korean companies entered Bangladesh market by taking advantage of the Bangladesh government’s low wage policy and anti-union policy, and are highly contributing to build up the vulnerable conditions for the workers. Youngwon Corporation has claimed that the massive workers’ protests triggered from its own factory in December, must be controlled by external powers and kept denying its own responsibility. However, when it comes to take a close look into the purpose of operating its factory in Chittagong FEZ, it becomes very clear why Youngwon Corporation should be held accountable for the December protests. The workers in the FEZ are denied to wield the right to take collective action, while the FEZ authorities has absolute power over the issues such as the workers’ wage negotiation, the employment and dismissal of workers. If the benefited Korean companies would not take responsibility for the damaged workers by the benefits, then who should take responsibility for this? It is clear that the Korean companies are benefitted by the Bangladesh government’s abuses against workers. In this regard, Korean companies are also responsible for Ms. Mishu’s illegal arrest, detention, and ill-treatment by the Bangladesh government.

Instead, the Korean government has been promoting Korean companies to invest in Bangladesh by suggesting attractions such as low wages and weak labour protection policy. Till now, the Korean government has been paid less attention on the international labor standards and has not been implementing its international obligations. However, the recent massive protest in Bangladesh indicates that the Korean government should not remain passive over the labour issue in Bangladesh. At least, the Korean government should sincerely study the causes behind the massive labor demonstration and try hard to make sure that Korean companies are not involved in human rights abuses against Bangladesh workers. One of President Lee Myung Bak’s national campaign slogans is “becoming the mature global country”. Urging the Bangladesh government to release Ms. Mishu should be the top priority for the Korean government as “the mature global country”, for the sake of protecting and improving human rights.

We, the Korean civil and union groups, strongly call for Ms. Mishu’s immediate release. Standing in solidarity, we will continue to fight together with Bangladesh workers until Ms. Mishu is released and workers achieve three basic labour rights and live like a human being. All the workers are the one; no one’s human rights should be violated!

This statement is endorsed by:
Altogether
Ansan Immigrant Center
Asia Pacific Workers Solidarity Links Corea
Catholic Guri Namyanju Migrant Center
CHANG: Korea Human Rights Reserch Centre
Cheon-an MOYSE(Migrants Center on based Catholic)
Committee to support imprisoned workers
Daejeon Association for Foreign Laborers
Daejeon MOYSE(Migrants Center on based Catholic)
Democratic Workers’ Solidarity
Friends of Asia
Gumi Catholic Workers’ Center
Human Rights Welfare Organization for Migrant Workers
Korea Migrant Workers’ Human Rights Center
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Korean House for International Solidarity
Korean Progressive Labor Network
Migrant Labor Center in Gyeongsan
Migrants’ Trade Union
Network for Glocal Activism
Network for Migrants’ Rights
Osan Laborer`s & Migrant`s Shelter
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
People’s Solidarity for Social progress
Public Interest Lawyers Group ‘Gonggam’
Pusan Missionary Association for Foreign Labor
Ronel Chakma Nani
Solidarity with Migrants
Window of Asia
Yang San Migrant Worker’s House

Amnesty International Press Release: South Korean Rights Defenders Convicted for Helping Victims of Violations

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Amnesty International Press release
24 January 2011

Amnesty International has condemned the conviction of two South Korean human rights defenders for peacefully protesting in support of families whose loved ones died while demonstrating against forced evictions.

Park Rae-gun and Lee Jong-hoe were convicted for their roles in a campaign seeking justice and reparations for the families of victims who died in a January 2009 fire while protesting evictions from their homes and businesses in Seoul’s central Yongsan district.

Park received just over 3 years sentence suspended for 4 and Lee received 2 years sentence suspended for 3 years for their role in organizing a demonstration that did not have police permission.

“Park and Lee have been convicted solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Their convictions must be overturned,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Programme Director.

Park and Lee had joined with other human rights activists to organize protests calling for justice and reparations for the families of those who died in what became known as the Yongsan Fire Incident.

On 19 January 2009, protestors fighting the evictions barricaded themselves inside a watchtower they had erected on the roof of a building earmarked for demolition. They gathered paint thinner and other flammable materials to deter police in the event of an attack.

Early the next morning, police commandos mounted a raid on the watchtower. As police landed on the roof to arrest the protesters, a fire broke out that claimed the lives of five protesters and a police officer.

Park, Lee and the other activists demanded an official apology, adequate compensation and a thorough and impartial investigation into events leading to the deaths. They submitted the necessary police notification for protests but were turned down five times by police who said the protests could become violent.

When the protests went ahead without police permission, Park and Lee were accused of “hosting an illegal protest” and “blocking traffic” even though the duration of any traffic obstruction was not substantial during the demonstrations, in some cases just half an hour.

“The broad discretion police have to issue prohibition notices effectively means that protests can only take place with police permission,” said Catherine Baber. “This discretion has been used to silence dissenting voices.”

Detention orders for Park and Lee were issued in March 2009 and January 2010 respectively. In 2009 Park wrote to the Seoul Central District Court, saying he would only hand himself in to the authorities after the government had met the demands of the families for an official apology and compensation.

On 30 December 2009 the Prime Minister issued an apology and compensation was awarded to the families of those who had died. Park and Lee turned themselves in to the police on 11 January 2010.

In March 2010, the Constitutional Court of South Korea noted that the traffic disruptions that inevitably result from peaceful assemblies and protests should not be punished as “blocking traffic” under the Criminal Code.

“The South Korean government needs to ensure that the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are guaranteed in law and practice” said Catherine Baber.

 

[PRESS STATEMENT] MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society_MINBYUN Highly Welcomes the Decision Declaring the Framework on the Act on Telecommunication that Punishes False Communication Unconstitutional

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

On the 28th of December 2010, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 47 Section 1 of Telecommunication Acts, which reads “Those who undermine public interest by disseminating false information should be sentenced 5 years of imprisonment or be fined 50 million won,” was found unconstitutional.The Court added that the legal provision being both a legislative restriction against freedom of expression and a penalty provision at the same time, can not confirm (a) which expressive behavior undermines public interest (since the concept of ‘public interest’ is quite vague) nor (b) which type of ‘false communication’ is prohibited while false communication is generally accepted. Therefore, it contradicts the principle of clarity in strict meaning.This case of legal provision originated from the Telecommunication Acts of 1961. However, it was first applied in the summer of 2008 during the pan-national Candlelight Vigil, which was held to urge the renegotiation of US beef imports when the government took issue with the contents on the internet which supported the Vigil.The provision had been a dead letter for the past 50 years, until it was reenacted through the Candlelight Vigil, the Minerva Case, and the case of the president of Seoul District Court. Due to its obscurity and overly broad context, its application had been determined by the will of certain legal executors’.MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society5F, Sinjeong B/D, 1555-3, Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea, P.O. 137-070Tel (82 2) 522 7284 Fax (82 2) 522 7285 http://minbyun.jinbo.net m321@chollian.net NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations2A free democratic nation should, be an ‘open market of ideas’, not the unilateral ‘government’ that decides whether certain ideas and opinions are right or wrong, worthy or worthless. Even though some ideas might be harmful to our society, their corrections should be made in that open market of ideas through ideological debates by the people.Historically, the dissemination of false information or demagogies has arisen in an era of dictatorship and oppression when telling the truth was forbidden. Still, the problem of eradicating the dissemination of false information and its malaise can possibly be resolved through open discussion that allows for diverse opinions, a process which eventually will bring the expansion of the freedom of expression.Today we highly welcome the Constitutional Court’s decision reaffirming the importance of freedom of expression, saying that the principle of clarity in a strict meaning can be applied to limit the freedom of expression.

Sun- Soo KIM

President

MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society

PDF: MINBYUN_Press Statement _Telecommunication Act_20101228

[PRESS STATEMENT] MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society _ MINBYUN Welcomes But is Unsatisfied with the Constitutional Court’s Decision of Incompatible with the Constitution on the Protection of Communication Secrets Act Article 6, Clause 7

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Dec. 28, 2010

Today, the Constitutional Court ruled Article 6 Clause 7 of the Protection of Communication Secrets Act as incompatible with the constitution for its infringement of the principle of proportionality due to its clause which fails to state limitations on the frequency and total period of communication-restrictions.1 Also the Court maintained that there is no way to limit communication-restriction and that privacy invasion is severe because the victim may not be aware of the restriction for a long time. Although the Constitutional Court ruled that the article is incompatible, so the court ordered that the law be provisionally applied until December 31st, 2011 in order to prevent a gap in the law.According to Article 1 of the Protection of Communications Secrets Act, the purpose of the Act is to “protect the secrets of communication and further freedom of communications by confining its contents its objects and requiring it to go through a strict process of law with regard to limitation on secrets and freedom of communications and conversations” (Article 1). On the other hand, while Article 6, Clause 7 of the same act states that “..Provided, That if the requirement for permission under Article 5(1) are still valid, a request for extending the period of communication-restricting measures may be filed..” it does not limit the extension periods or the frequencies of communication-restriction, thus effectively incapacitating the purpose of the Protection of Communications Secrets Act.1 “Incompatible with the constitution”: This conclusion means the Court acknowledges a law’s unconstitutionality but merely requests the National Assembly to revise it by a certain period while having the law remain effective until that time (http://English.ccourt.go.kr).MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society5F, Sinjeong B/D, 1555-3, Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea, P.O. 137-070Tel (82 2) 522 7284 Fax (82 2) 522 7285 http://minbyun.jinbo.net m321@chollian.net NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations2We welcome but are not fully satisfied with the Constitution Court’s decision because the Constitution Court did not rule unconstitutionality that the Clause lost its effect immediately but rule Incompatible with the Constitution. As two justices’ opinion insisting the same clause simply as unconstitutional, if there is a need of communication-restriction by law enforcement agencies for investigation purpose, they can request a communication-restriction for not exceed 2 months and if they need to extend a period they can re-request a communication-restriction newly under the current law so that there is no gap in the law. However, the decision to provisionally allow the use of the law until next year permits unlimited extension of communication-restrictions by law enforcement agencies, thus severely violating basic rights.We strongly request that the National Assembly should reform the system following the Constitutional Court’s decision so that no one is indiscriminately watched by the government. Also, law enforcement agencies should respect the decision’s purpose and change any and all investigation processes which violate individual rights. The Court should strengthen legal restrictions concerning unlimited communication-restriction extension claims.Sen-Soo KimPresident,MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society

PDF:  MINBYUN_Press Statement _Communication Secret Protection Act_20101228