Posted : 2012-06-14 21:09
Updated : 2012-06-14 21:09

Statute of limitations on homicide to be scrapped

By Na Jeong-ju

Korea will scrap the statute limiting the time for prosecuting murderers as early as this year in an effort to better protect the lives of citizens, officials said Thursday.

The measure reflects growing public demand that the country abolish the statutes of limitations on premeditated homicide as well as crimes against children. Last year, the country removed such a statute on sexual abuse against disabled people and children under the age of 13.

The Ministry of Justice said it will submit a revised bill that calls for the removal of the statutory period for first-degree murder for National Assembly approval this year.

If the bill is passed, it will be retroactively applied to murders committed after 1997.

“The statute of limitations on premeditated murder and serial killing doesn’t exist in most states in the United States and in England and Germany. Japan also scrapped such a statute in 2010,” a ministry official said. “It has become an international trend as investigation-related technologies are developing and new methods of scientific investigation have been introduced.”

In 2007, Korea extended the statutory period for crimes that are punishable by the death sentence, including premeditated murder, to 25 years from the previous 15 years. However, civic groups have urged the government to remove it, citing high-profile murder cases that happened long ago, but have remained unresolved.

One of them is a serial murder case that took place in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. A total of 10 women were brutally killed from 1986 to 1991, but police failed to find the culprit.

Another is the case of five elementary schoolchildren in Daegu who went missing in 1991. For over a decade, some 500,000 police officers and soldiers were mobilized to find them, but failed.

The statutes of limitations for both cases have expired.

“It is impossible to prosecute those who were involved in the crimes that happened in Hwaseong and Daegu even if they are captured. The revised bill is based on feelings that those committing inhumane crimes should not be given such leniency,” the official said.

Civic groups are now campaigning for the abolishment of the statutes of limitations on other crimes, including those victimizing females and the elderly people.

“It is heartbreaking if a person who committed a brutal act escapes punishment only because of a time limit for prosecution,” said an official from the Korea Child Welfare Association.
관련 한글 기사

살인죄 공소시효 폐지, 범인 ‘반드시’ 응징

법무부는 살인죄 공소시효를 폐지하는 내용을 담은 형사소송법 일부개정안을 입법예고했다고 14일 밝혔다.

법무부는 "개구리 소년 납치살인, 화성 연쇄살인 사건 등의 공소시효가 완성되자 정의에 반해 살인범에게 면죄부를 줘서는 안 된다는 비판의 목소리가 컸다"며 "국민의 생명 보호와 안전한 사회를 위해 고의로 사람을 살해한 범죄는 공소시효를 폐지하고자 한다"고 개정이유를 설명했다.

법무부는 "살인 등 중범죄에 대해 공소시효를 폐지해 반드시 처벌해야 한다는 국민적 요구가 꾸준히 있었다"고 덧붙였다.

앞서 13세 미만 아동 및 장애인 대상 성폭력 범죄의 공소시효가 폐지됐다.

현재 살인죄 공소시효는 25년이다. 15년이었다가 2007년 12월부터 늘었다.

법무부는 형사소송법 253조 2항에 '공소시효의 적용 배제'를 신설했다. 이 조항은 사람을 살해한 범죄(종범은 제외)로 사형에 해당하는 범죄에 대해서는 249조부터 253조까지 규정된 공소시효를 적용하지 않는다는 내용이다.

법무부는 개정안에 대해 다음 달 23일까지 의견을 수렴한 뒤 국무회의 등을 거쳐 국회에 보낼 계획이다.

현재 미국 대다수 주(州)와 독일, 일본 등에서도 최고형량이 사형인 살인죄와 계획적 살인죄 등은 공소시효가 없다. (연합뉴스)

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