Top judge proposes court for Asia

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Top judge proposes court for Asia


President Park Geun-hye, center, with leaders of constitutional courts and councils from 100 countries, poses for a group photo yesterday at the 3rd Congress of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice at the Shilla Hotel in Jung District, central Seoul. [NEWSIS]

The time has come for Asia to establish a regional court to address human rights issues, Park Han-chul, president of the Constitutional Court of Korea, said yesterday.

Justice Park also stressed that once the international court is established it will give people more dignity and bring integration to the region.

The proposal was made in the judge’s keynote speech at the 3rd Congress of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice yesterday.

The conference - the largest of its kind - took place at the Shilla Hotel in Jung District, central Seoul.

About 350 leaders from 100 countries, including 50 heads of constitutional courts and constitutional councils, as well as 13 chief justices of supreme courts, attended the four-day conference that started Sunday.

“Constitutional Justice and Social Integration” is the theme of this year’s congress, and Park made his proposal at the second plenary session, titled “International Standards for Social Integration.”

“The constitution and laws of a country are based on its history, culture and the background of the times,” he said. “Therefore, each country has a unique standard. And yet, it is still possible to find a universal constitutional value that will be accepted by the world.”

Park suggested that an international alliance of constitutional courts would allow each to share its experiences in protecting human rights, helping them to avoid losing objectivity because of the culture and current situations within their home countries.

“The European Court of Human Rights brought about integration and regional peace to the European Union, just as the human rights court for Asia will bring about dignity and integration to Asians,” said Park.

The European Court of Human Rights was established in 1959 by the European Convention on Human Rights. The international court has 47 member countries. An individual, a group of individuals or a member state can file an application to challenge an alleged civil and political rights violation by a member state.

The court, based in Strasbourg, France, rules on about 1,500 cases a year. Its justices are elected through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Although the rulings are not binding, the member countries tend to adhere to them because they can be expelled from the assembly, which is significantly influential in Europe, if they fail to execute its judgments.

Courts with similar roles have also opened on other continents. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was established in 1979 and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was founded in 2006.

Law experts said if Park’s recommendation is realized, Korea has a high possibility of hosting the suggested regional court on human rights. China and India are rather reluctant to address their countries’ human rights issues, and Japan’s military past hinders the country from actively promoting the proposal.

The legal experts also said, however, that Park’s proposal faces many obstacles because the economic and cultural backgrounds of Asian countries vary widely. Asia also lacks a regional governing body to help push the project forward, they added.

The Council of Europe, the region’s main organization for human rights, was a strong advocate of the European Court on Human Rights, while the Organization of American States and the African Union each also promoted regional courts on their continents.

Earlier in the day, President Park Geun-hye attended the conference’s opening ceremony and gave a speech.

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