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NHRCK warns psychiatric institute over excessive force

Graphic: Blurred outline of an inmate sitting on the floor in a corridor

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea has upheld allegations of excessive use of force by three inmates at a psychiatric institute.

The Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) has advised the Forensic Psychiatry Institute of Gongju (FPIG), South Chungcheong Province, to stop using excessive physical force on its inmates, The Korea Herald reported.

The NHRCK also advised the Justice Ministry to ensure that the Institute carries out its practices in a humane manner.

Psychiatric institutes hold criminals diagnosed with mental illnesses for treatment and correction. Inmates may be physically restrained (with leather or fabric straps) at facilities if they pose a threat that cannot be handled with any other measure, according to the Act on Medical Treatment and Custody.

The case came to light after three inmates at the FPIG lodged petitions complaining of unfair treatment by the institution's workers. Two complained that they were restrained unfairly, while one said he was tied up and dragged down a corridor.

The FPIG denied the accusations, saying the actions were correctional or defensive measures taken in response to the inmates' violent and disruptive behaviour.

However, an investigation by the NHRCK found the allegations to be true.

According to the NHRCK, between March and June 2018, two of the inmates suffered 204 cases of "five-point compulsion", in which their hands, feet and chest were all bound at the same time. Such physical restraint is the strongest of its kind and is believed to cause excruciating pain and trauma to a person.

The NHRCK presumed that such a practice was carried out habitually, even in situations in which it was unnecessary.

In addition, the NHRCK reviewed CCTV footage and found that the third inmates had been knocked to the floor and was tied up by a staff member while other inmates witnessed the bound inmate being dragged along the floor.

The NHRCK concluded that physical inhibition without any prior measures taken in advance was excessive and violated the inmate's dignity, granted by the Constitution.

The NHRCK recommended that the head of the FPIG educate its staff on human rights practice and safe methods of confinement.

Date: 26 November 2018

Source: The Korea Herald


Image credits

  1. Blurred outline of an inmate sitting on the floor in a corridor - APF