S. Korean Activists Petition UN Over Beef Protest Clampdown
South Korean activists Monday sent a petition to the United Nations, asking the international organization to admonish their government for its hardline crackdown on street protests over U.S. beef imports.
The "urgent appeal" to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees came as police sought to arrest civic organizers of the months-long beef protests and prosecutors placed a travel ban on some Internet users. Street demonstrations have recently waned.
"Over the course of the candlelight protest movement, there have been cases of indiscriminate detention, arrest, suppression of free expression on the Internet and other abuses of human rights," Yonhap News quoted Hwang Pil-gyu, a member of the Lawyer's Society for a Democratic Society, as saying. The lawyers' group prepared the petition along with dozens of other civic groups.
The 30-page report includes video footage and photographs of police officers waving shields and firing water cannons at protesters and personal accounts of violent encounters with police. The petition calls on the U.N. to "confirm that there have been violations of the freedom of speech" and "start a direct involvement such as the Country Visit investigation" in Korea.
If the global body accepts the petition, one of its special rapporteurs will be tasked with investigating Seoul's handling of beef protests and may even visit South Korea for onsite inspections.
In its official report in late June, the South Korean prosecution said more than 370 police officers had been injured and 111 police buses damaged during the candlelight rallies that have since dwindled. Nearly 1,000 people have been detained, most of them briefly. Seven rally organizers wanted by police are currently taking refugee at a Buddhist temple in downtown Seoul.