Human rights groups criticize Seoul over deportation of N. Korean suspects

SEOUL-- Human rights groups on Monday lashed out at South Korea over its recent deportation of two North Koreans accused of killing 16 fellow crew members of a fishing boat, calling the move a "shameful decision" that was made after just days of investigation.

On Thursday, the two in their 20s were sent back to the North through the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, five days after they were captured near the eastern sea border.

The two confessed that they and another crew member killed the captain of the fishing boat out of anger over his abuse before killing the remaining crew members one by one later. The third person was arrested in the North when they tried to sneak back to their home country.

A total of 20 organizations, including Transitional Justice Working Group, said the government should "at least have provided the deported with a lawyer and allowed them to defend themselves in court in accordance with the principles of due process."

"Instead of showing clear-cut, hard evidence to prove the murders it alleges, the South Korean government explained that the allegations have been substantiated by an abundance of 'testimonies,' 'circumstantial evidence' and 'information,' details of which cannot fully be disclosed," they said in a statement.

Citing a U.N. convention against torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment that South Korea joined in 1995, the groups also accused South Korea of violating international and domestic law in handling the case, calling for a parliamentary inquiry.

The U.N. convention says no state shall expel, return or extradite a person to another country where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

Thursday's deportation marked the first of its kind since the 1950-53 Korean War. South Korea usually accepts North Koreans as defectors if they want to resettle here to avoid oppression and poverty and repatriates those who drifted to the South in accordance with their wishes.

Though the two North Koreans expressed an intent to defect, the government said that it determined not to respect it on the belief that they just crossed into the South in order to flee arrest.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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