1st military human rights protection officer installed in S.Korea

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South Korea’s National Human Rights Commission on Friday installed its first new vice minister-level officer in charge of human rights issues in the military.

Park Chan-woon, who is a member of the state human rights watchdog, has been named by the president as the first officer to look into possible rights violations, such as violence and sexual abuse cases, in the military, reports Yonhap News Agency.

“My first mission is to prevent rights violations and sexual violence cases that do not occur in the military anymore,” Park said during an inauguration ceremony.

The officer has the right to probe and visit military bases implicated in human rights violation cases without notice, and attend investigations of military death and sexual violence cases, the Commission said.

The officer, however, does not have the authority to arrest or detain a suspect. Instead, a fine of 10 million won ($770) or less can be imposed when he or she refuses investigation.

Critics say the officer’s power is limited, considering the Defence Minister can request the officer stop the visit during the investigation.

Calls for the position came after a series of abuses cases, including the high-profile death of Army private first class in 2013.

Last year, the National Assembly passed a revision to the National Human Rights Commission Act to establish the position.

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