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Abuse blamed for mysterious deaths in army

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Published : 2010-03-30 17:16
Updated : 2010-03-30 17:16

Five conscientious objectors who mysteriously died in the military in the 1970s and 80s were harshly beaten and tortured by their superiors, a truth panel said yesterday.
The Presidential Committee on Suspicious Deaths in the Military said the state should be held responsible for the deaths of five Jehovah`s Witnesses.
The panel announced the result of its inquiry acting on a petition by their bereaved family members.
They were beaten with rifles, clubs, and steel helmets, sexually abused, and even waterboarded, after they refused to pick up guns due to their religious beliefs, the panel said.
Two died while being taken to hospital, two killed themselves and one died soon after being discharged, the panel concluded.
The military had claimed that they died accidentally during training and killed themselves due to mental stress.
"They died from military violence while trying to adhere to their religious conscience, and the state should bear responsibility for their deaths," said the commission in its statement.
"The beating and brutal acts inflicted on them by the military should be classified as acts of torture, and clearly violate the human freedom of religion and of personal conscience."
Victims` families will be able to make a claim against the state for past damages.
The disclosure came as the Defense Ministry, under the conservative administration, is backtracking from its position to allow conscientious objectors to opt for alternative services.
By Bae Hyun-jung


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