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Police Violates Rights of Migrant Woman with Forceful Interrogation during Hospital Stay and Non-compliance with Procedures for Recognition of Victims of Human Trafficking
-NHRCK recommends Commissioner General of Korean National Police Agency to take measures to prevent such incidents from occurring again, including development of a manual for recognition of victims of human trafficking-
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(NHRCK, Chair Youg-ae Choi) released a decision regarding the case of a migrant woman who was severely injured after falling from a building to avoid a police crackdown on prostitution. The Commission has concluded that the police interrogation of the migrant woman at a multi-bedded hospital room on the date of the accident and the failure to give notifications about the rights to attend the police interview along with a person whom she can trust and to meet and communicate with consular staff members constitute a violation of the victim’s personality rights, personal freedom and right to privacy, which is protected under Articles 10, 12 and 17 of the Constitution.
The Commission also took note of the police’s failure to comply with the procedures for recognition of victims of human trafficking despite the circumstantial evidence of human trafficking and recommended revision of related regulations.
A group of complainants, including a migrant women’s group, filed a complaint with the Commission, claiming that the police pushed ahead with the interrogation of the victim, who sustained severe injuries after falling from a four-story building to avoid a police crackdown on sex workers at a massage parlor, without due consideration of her health and dignity and did not attempt to follow the procedures to recognize the victims of human trafficking.
The Commission’s investigation found that the victim arrived at Korea after obtaining false job information from an agent in Thailand and was subsequently forced to work as a sex worker with her passport being stolen by the agent. The police officers who interviewed the victim said that the complainant had not claimed she was a victim of human trafficking. The Commission, however, observes that the police should have undergone a procedure to verify whether the complainant was a victim of human trafficking in accordance with the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Human Trafficking, which was ratified by the Republic of Korea on May 29 2015, before initiating an investigation of the suspected crime, considering that the victim has limited access to the domestic justice system and belongs to a group that is particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
The Commission also found rights violations committed during the interrogation process itself. The victim was transferred to a multi-bedded room after receiving emergency care. The police interviewed the victim about the charge of prostitution in the presence of other patients, which constitutes a violation of human rights that induces a feeling of shame in the victim. Another issue of concern was the failure to notify the migrant woman, who belongs to a disadvantaged group with weak social support networks and limited access to justice, about the rights to attend a police interrogation with a trustworthy person and to meet and communicate with consular staff members so that the victim can seek appropriate protection prior to the police interview.
In conclusion, the Commission recommended the Commissioner General of the Korean National Police Agency to: 1) develop concrete regulations and manual relating to the recognition and protection of victims of human trafficking and provide training to frontline police officers to disseminate the knowledge; and 2) revise related regulations to allow migrants women and other disadvantaged groups with weak social support networks in Korea to seek help from relevant agencies or organizations and take part in the police interview along with a person whom they can trust.