[EDITORIALS]Deaths, torture, dictators

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[EDITORIALS]Deaths, torture, dictators

The Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths announced on Thursday that the Park Chung Hee administration fabricated allegations that the People's Revolutionary Party was involved in a student uprising in April 1974. The incident led to a declaration of martial law and a tightening of Mr. Park's grip on power.

According to the commission, intelligence officers tortured witnesses and forged documents to falsely accuse anti-government leaders of being communists; eight were executed. There had been lingering suspicions of fabrications, but this is the first time that a government agency has officially pronounced it true.

The committee's announcement shows us what serious human rights abuses government intelligence officials were carrying out at the time. One police officer who was present at the scene of a torture session at the time recalled how suspects were administered electrical shocks until they "confessed." Court warders testified that the martial court chamber of judges had falsely recorded or omitted the testimony of some witnesses.

Family members of the accused were limited in attending the hearings. Eight party leaders were executed only 20 hours after their appeals were rejected. There was worldwide criticism of the executions, which were called "judicial murders" in many countries.

The People's Revolutionary Party incident is a dark shadow on our past under military dictatorship. Even after 28 years, it still sends shivers down one's spine to think about the frightful consequences that public authority gone mad wrought on society. Steady efforts must be made to reveal the wrongdoings of the authorities while restoring the honor and compensating those who were wrongfully accused. In addition, we must search to see if there were any other undemocratic incidents of human rights abuse by our government.

We must remember, though, that this announcement is only an interim one. The case is not yet closed, so no final judgements can be made. No hard evidence to support the claims of the witnesses is available, despite the commission's announcement. The commission should now complete its job before jumping to conclusions. Not to do so would be a different, but still serious additional abuse of power.
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