Group petitions U.N. over Navy rape case

March 22, 2021

A group of nongovernmental organizations said Monday it has petitioned the United Nations over a case in which a military court cleared two naval officers of raping a female sailor, citing a lack of resistance by the victim.

The two officers were initially sentenced to 10 years and eight years in prison for raping their female subordinate, who is a sexual minority, while on a voyage in 2010.

In November 2018, the High Court for Armed Forces reversed the ruling, saying the woman did not physically resist. The case is pending at the Supreme Court for more than two years.

Her advocates said it was difficult for her to resist her superiors because she had to spend a long period of time with them in isolated conditions on the ship. One of the perpetrators was its captain, who wielded absolute power on the vessel, they said.

A joint committee of 10 civic organizations campaigning for the victim filed a petition on March 12 to the U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women and the U.N. independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, it said.

This Jan. 29, 2019, file photo shows activists holding a news conference at the Supreme Court in Seoul, demanding the court promptly review a case in which a military high court cleared two naval officers of raping a female sailor citing a lack of resistance by the victim. (Yonhap)

This Jan. 29, 2019, file photo shows activists holding a news conference at the Supreme Court in Seoul, demanding the court promptly review a case in which a military high court cleared two naval officers of raping a female sailor citing a lack of resistance by the victim. (Yonhap)

The petition claimed the high court ignored precedents on sexual violence that have respected gender sensitivity in rulings, and thus failed to fulfill the state’s obligation to protect human rights.

The committee, including the Center for Military Human Rights Korea, asked the U.N. experts to recommend the Supreme Court review the case promptly.

The group also called on them to urge the South Korean government to make efforts to protect gender minorities and prevent sexual violence in the military and introduce a comprehensive law to fight all forms of discrimination.

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