The appeal court of the Gwangju District in Korea, overturned the guilty verdicts of two conscientious objectors, Cho Rak-hoon and Kim Hyung-geun. The decision is a victory for conscientious objectors in Korea as it is the first time an appeal court has reversed guilty verdicts in a conscientious objectors case. The appeal court also rejected prosecutors’ calls to convict a third conscientious objector, Kim Hye-min, who was found not guilty at his initial trial in May 2015.
The decision was a clear message that conscientious objection is not a crime and that the government should take necessary steps to stop punishing conscientious objectors, as noted by Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.
"The true significance of the Appeal Court’s verdict," though, as stated by WRI's affiliate in Korea, World Without War, "will be known in due course when the Constitutional Court makes it’s ruling on whether the law which criminalizes conscientious objection violates the country’s constitution."
There are more people imprisoned for refusing military service than the rest of the world put together, as reported by Amnesty International. As of October, 2016, 399 objectors are in prison, and the numbers can even be higher as it's likely that there are unreported cases.
Sources: Amnesty International, Appeal Court Victory for Conscientious Objectors, 18 October 2016; World Without War, We welcome the recent ruling by the Gwangju District Appeal Court which acquitted conscientious objectors and overturned their convictions, 18 October 2016.
Photo: World Without War