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South Korea
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary arrest and subsquent deportation of Messrs. Torna Limbu and Abdus Sabur

KOR 001 / 0508 / OBS 086
Arbitrary arrests / Deportation /
Obstacles to the freedom of association

Republic of Korea

May 20, 2008

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in South Korea.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) about the deportation of Messrs. Torna Limbu and Abdus Sabur, respectively President and Vice-President of the Migrant Trade Union (MTU), an affiliate of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

According to the information received, on May 15, 2008, Messrs. Torna Limbu and Abdus Sabur were taken from the Cheongju Foreigners’ Detention Centre and forced to board a plane at Incheon Airport a few hours later, in application of a decision of the Ministry of Justice and Immigration Authorities. The two were deported from South Korea at roughly 9:30 p.m. and arrived in their home countries (Nepal and Bangladesh respectively) the following afternoon after a layover in Bangkok, where they were held in the airport detention centre.

The decision took place at the same time as actions protesting the arbitrary arrest of the two MTU leaders (on May 2, 2008) were taking place in Seoul, Cheongju, Daegu and Busan.

Furthermore, on May 15, 2008, the South Korean National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had accepted an MTU appeal to postpone the deportation until the investigation into the human rights violations associated with the arrests of Messrs. Torna Limbu and Abdus Sabur proceeded. The Ministry of Justice was informed orally of this decision, and it is understood that they then rushed to carry out the deportation before they received the formal notice.

The Observatory fears that the arbitrary arrest and subsequent deportation of Messrs. Torna Limbu and Abdus Sabur aim at sanctioning their labour right activities and, more largely, MTU activities. Indeed, the Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that South Korea decides to deport MTU leaders: thus, on December 13, 2007, Messrs. Kajiman Khapung, Raju Kumar Gurung and Abul Basher M. Moniruzzaman (Masum), three MTU leaders, were secretly taken out of Cheongju Detention Center, where they had been confined since they were arrested, on November 27, and were transported to Incheon International Airport and deported to their native countries (Nepal and Bangladesh) during the morning hours[1].

Furthermore, the Observatory expresses its deep concern as Messrs. Torna Limbu and Abdus Sabur might face further repression in their home countries.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in South Korea urging them to:

  1. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all MTU members as well as all human rights defenders in the country, including trade unionists;
  2. put an immediate end to any obstacles to the activities of the Migrant Workers’ Trade Union;
  3. put an end to all forms of harassment, legal action, and ill-treatment of human rights defenders in South Korea, including trade unionists, as well as any obstacles to freedoms of expression, association and assembly;
  4. ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, article 5.b which stipulates that everyone has the right “to form, join and participate in non-governmental organisations, associations or groups, as well as article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
  5. guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments signed or ratified by the Republic of Korea.


Mr. Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic, Blue House, Seoul, Republic of Korea, Fax: +82 2770 1690

  • Mr. Han Seung-soo, Prime Minister, 77-6 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea. Fax: + 82-2-720-35 71. Email:
  • Mr. Kim Kyung-han, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 1 Jungang-dong, Gwacheon Government Complex, Gyeonggi Prov., Republic of Korea. Fax: + 82-2-504-5724 / +82-2-503-3337 / +82-2-503-3532 / +82-2-500-9128.
  • Mr. Lee Young-hee, Minister of Labour, 2 Jungang-dong, Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Prov. Republic of Korea. Fax : + 82-2-3679-6581
  • National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Gumsegi Building, No. 16, Ulgiro 1-ga, Jung-gu, 100-842 Seoul, Republic of Korea. Tel: +82 2 2125 97 00; Fax: + 82-2-2125-9812 / +82 2 2 125 98 11 / 96 66 / +82-2-2125-9718. E-mail:
  • Ambassador Mr. Sung-joo Lee, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 avenue de l’Ariana, CP 42, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland. Fax: +4122 748 00 01. Email:
  • Embassy and Mission to the European Union of South Korea in Brussels, 175 Chemin de la Hulpe, 1170 Watermael-Boitsfort, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2 675 52 21 / 662 2305. Email: / /

Please also write to the embassies of South Korea in your respective country.

Geneva - Paris, May 20, 2008

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] See Observatory Urgent Appeal KOR 001/1207/OBS 168, issued on December 17, 2007.

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