S. Korea to abolish guardhouse system, appellate court

SEOUL, :The Ministry of National Defense on Monday announced a judicial reform plan focused on abolishing the military appellate court and the guardhouse system.

"The government has devised the military judicial reform plan with an aim to accommodate growing calls for innovation and to substantially guarantee conscripts' constitutional rights and human rights," the ministry said, adding the plan will be put into action as part of its wider military reform scheme.

Under the plan, the Seoul High Court will substitute for the High Court for Armed Forces as the appellate court dealing with legal cases involving the military. The decision was made in reaction to the National Assembly and civic groups' criticism that the military appellate court often ruled in favor of the military establishment.

But the authority to bring a case to the appellate court will remain with the military prosecution, according to the ministry.

The military court will newly employ its chief judge from outside of the military so soldiers can be tried in a fairer manner as "citizens in uniform," the ministry said.

As part of the judicial reform plan, the military will also abolish guardhouses and will instead come up with a new correctional system to discipline soldiers, according to the ministry.

"The guardhouse system will be abolished as part of a disciplinary system reform as it has often been subject to controversy of human rights violations for limiting (soldiers') personal liberty without a warrant," the ministry said.

In addition, the reform plan will allow state-appointed lawyers to represent soldiers at military-related trials while institutionalizing measures that block military commanders' attempts to influence military investigations and other legal cases, the ministry added.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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