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Constitutional Court begins deliberations on petition against death penalty

By Yonhap

Published : July 14, 2022 - 10:28

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Thursday on whether to keep or abolish the death penalty, the first such debate in 12 years after the punishment was ruled constitutional twice in 1996 and 2010.

The case began as a man convicted of killing his parents filed a constitutional petition challenging capital punishment in 2019, together with the Committee for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, after prosecutors demanded the death penalty for him.

He was later sentenced to life in prison.

South Korea is globally categorized as an "abolitionist in practice," having not carried out any death penalty since its last execution on Dec. 30, 1997. But capital punishment is still permissible under the law, and 60 people were serving time in prison at the end of 2020 after getting the death penalty.

The Constitutional Court previously ruled in favor of the death penalty system in 7-2 and 5-4 decisions in 1996 and 2010, respectively. Consent from at least six of the nine constitutional court judges are needed to rule the death penalty unconstitutional.

Two clauses of the Criminal Act, which stipulate the death penalty, are the focal point of the death penalty debate that will zero in on whether capital punishment goes against human dignity and the right to life.

"Life is an absolute value which cannot be taken away through a legal judgment," the petitioners claimed.

They said life imprisonment is a penalty effective enough in permanently isolating a criminal from society and there is no scientific research backing the effect of the death penalty as deterrence against crimes.

The Justice Ministry maintains that the death penalty serves public interests in deterring crimes and "permanently eliminating the root of social ills."

It also said deterring the deprivation of the right to life for the innocent public should come first if their right to life clashes with that of criminals. (Yonhap)