|A Moroccan man is detained ― on his stomach with his feet and hands tied behind his back and with his head bound in protective head gear ― in solitary confinement at Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center in Gyeonggi Province, in this video footage taken in June. Courtesy of Duroo Association for Public Interest Law|
By Lee Hyo-jin
Civic groups for the human rights of migrants and foreign nationals here have denounced immigration authorities for the excessive use of force against a detainee at an immigration detention center, calling for punishment of those responsible and measures to prevent any recurrence.
A coalition of these groups held a press conference, Wednesday, in front of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, calling for immediate release of the detainee, while demanding apologies from the head of Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center and the justice minister.
A Moroccan man in his 30s, who has been detained at Hwaseong Detention Center in Gyeonggi Province for over six months, has been subject to inhumane treatment there, according to the groups.
An immigration detention center is a facility operated by the Ministry of Justice, where undocumented people of foreign nationality are held while facing deportation.
The victim, who entered Korea in October 2017 as an asylum seeker, was sent to the detention center in March of this year after a deportation order was issued against him.
He protested the poor conditions and repeatedly asked for medical treatment for the mental and physical illnesses he was suffering, but his requests were rejected. Following physical conflicts with officers, he was put into solitary confinement.
The detainee has been put under isolation a dozen times in total, spending one-third of his time at the center in a 10-square-meter cell, the longest stretch being for 11 days.
CCTV footage of the cell showed the man lying on his stomach with both hands and legs bound with rope behind his back, rendering him unable to move around the room. His head was covered in protective headgear bound with box tape and cable ties.
According to the migrant human rights groups, he was tied up in this harsh position multiple times, for periods ranging from 20 minutes to 4 hours and 24 minutes.
"They treated me like an animal. I remember everything that happened to me here. It is traumatic," the detainee said in a statement presented by the rights groups.
The coalition of groups views this harsh treatment as a form of torture, and a clear violation of human rights.
"The rules on the use of 'protective equipment' at immigration detention centers state that using ropes, handcuffs and protective gear on detainees should be used only in 'exceptional' cases to prevent self-harm. Using rope to bind a person like this and leaving him for a long period of time, which evidently goes beyond the original purpose of their use, can be seen as torture," read their statement.
The coalition also accused the authorities of not following the proper procedures required to place the man in solitary confinement.
Under Korean law, upon putting detainees in "special custody" or solitary confinement, the officers must present valid reasons for doing so as well as guarantee the detainee the chance to state his or her opinion, properly documenting them.
The twelve documents concerning the man's situation, however, lacked proper explanation as to why he was put in solitary confinement, had no official signatures or seals, and were issued with identical serial numbers, although they pertained to different dates.
"We strongly believe that the papers have been falsified, which means that the victim may have been put under 'special custody' without good reason. This is a serious case, which can constitute a criminal offense," Lawyer Lee Han-jae at Duroo Association for Public Interest Law, told The Korea Times
As the man's legal representative, Lee said that they plan to file a petition to the Ministry of Justice demanding his immediate release.
"We have also submitted the details of the case to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the United Nations Committee Against Torture," Lee added.