South Korea’s human rights watchdog said Tuesday that police and prosecutors were recently cautioned for denying foreign suspects’ rights to self-defense by detaining an African man for 12 days without contacting his embassy.
According to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, police and prosecutors arrested a Nigerian and detained him for 12 days, ignoring his multiple requests to contact the Nigerian Embassy.
Police arrested the man, who was at the time on the wanted list, on a theft charge in November last year. He denied the charge and asked police officers to contact the Nigerian Embassy, but they allegedly refused his request.
Police and prosecutors reportedly shifted responsibility onto each other, with police saying they were only in charge of the initial investigation and prosecutors saying the police should have contacted the embassy.
“The man’s rights to self-defense was violated as police and prosecutors refused his request to contact his embassy when arresting and detaining him,” said an official from the watchdog.
According to the Constitution, the families of those arrested and detained have a right to know the date, place and reason for arrest and detention.
When foreign nationals face arrest and detention, police and prosecutors are required to allow suspects to freely contact their embassies in Korea for their self-defense. The law enforcement agencies should notify the embassies of suspects’ status, too.
The NHRCK said it had imposed a recommendation for prosecutors and advised police to offer proper job training for officers to cope with such a situation.
The man was eventually set free after he was found not guilty and falsely accused, as a fellow Nigerian national had given the man’s name and foreign registration number to avoid arrest when he had been caught stealing items.
“The Nigerian was framed, but the arrest and detention were carried out in accordance with the law, so there is no problem in the law enforcement,” the NHRCK official said.
The NHRCK, an independent organization monitoring the nation’s human rights issues, sets recommendations for abuse cases, but its advice does not have legally binding force.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)