[Commentary]MINBYUN condemns the lawsuit by the National Intelligence Service

2013-06-25 34

MINBYUN condemns the lawsuit by the National Intelligence Service

On June 5, 2013, it was confirmed that on May 10, 3 agents from the National Intelligence Service(‘NIS’) filed a lawsuit against Mr. Kyung-uk Jang, Mr. Yong-min Kim, and Mr. Seung-bong Yang, member lawyers of MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society(‘MINBYUN’) for 200,000,000 Korean Won each in damages on the ground of defamation. The agents claimed in their complaint that three lawyers allegedly committed defamation adversely affecting reputation of themselves as well as NIS by publicly revealing and spreading false information in a press conference held on April 27 in which three lawyers at present raised the allegation that NIS fabricated an espionage case against Mr. Liu based on his sister’s confession, sole evidence obtained under duress. Three lawyers were representing Mr. Liu, Chinese Korean and North Korean defector who were arrested on the ground of espionage in violation of the National Security Act during his service for the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
MINBYUN finds the lawsuit intended to undermine full implementation of right to counsel as well as to discourage advocacy activities of the human rights defenders on the grounds as follow.
First, the lawsuit by the NIS agents amounts retaliation by nature against MINBYUN member lawyers for public announcement that there are reasonable grounds that NIS fabricated the case against Mr. Liu. According to the statement that Ms. Liu, sister of Mr. Liu made on April 27, the espionage charge was solely based on Ms. Liu’s testimony during the interrogation taken place at the Central Joint Interrogation Center under NIS. Since her entrance to South Korea on 30 October 2013 Ms. Liu was taken into custody for 6 months with no permission to correspond or contact outside of the detention facility. The NIS agents questioned Ms. Liu about her brother. According to her statement, the agents persistently threatened her that it would be the best interest of her brother for Ms. Liu to make cooperative statements with respect to the espionage allegations against her brother. Therefore, because of her testimony to be fabricated by NIS, her brother was indicted for spying in violation of the National Security Act. However Ms. Liu was present at the press conference to tell the truth about the fabricated espionage case against her brother and the NIS’s attempt to this case lost its ground. This law suit against three MINBYUN lawyers is absurd given that the wrongdoer is the plaintiff.
Second, the lawsuit of the NIS agents undermines the rights of counsel as legal officer who represents his or her client who has reasonable grounds to believe that the espionage case has been made up by the state agency. The lawyers are protected, by law, from civil law suits for legal representation and other actions, unless illegal, in an attempt to protect the best interest of the client. Here, three lawyers were present at the press conference as a capacity of legal counsel for Mr. Liu and their statements regarding facts of the incidents involving great possibility of fabrication in the espionage case against Mr. Liu, are protected by law, accordingly.
Third, the NIS lawsuit ultimately undermines the freedom of speech of all citizens. The legal measure taken by the NIS agents causes distress, economic and psychological, to three lawyers, human rights defenders and is expected to generate chilling effect on free speech of the citizen. And this incident demonstrates enough that the current administration shares immature perception of human rights, which causes a grave concern.
The NIS’s attempt to intimidate people with a lawsuit is not the first. It brought a damages suit against Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan City Won-soon Park on the ground that he defamed the NIS’s reputation by holding a press conference and the court dismissed the case later. MINBYUN strongly condemns the lawsuit and responds firmly with the every possible measure such as forming a joint defense counsel. MINBYUN should create an important precedent that the attempt of state agency, particularly NIS to suppress the right of counsel as well as to undermine full implementation of free speech of the citizen by means of the damages lawsuit find no place in our society under our constitutional values and principles.

June 5, 2013
Joo-young Jang
MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society

To find the Letter of Allegation to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders
Letterofallegation to SR HRD_final version_20130620