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South Korea to try military sex crimes, homicides in civilian courts

South Korea to try military sex crimes, homicides in civilian courts

FILE PHOTO: A South Korean flag flutters on the top of a 100m tower as soldiers stand guard at the Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), inside the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on Sep 30, 2019. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

SEOUL: Sex crimes and homicides committed by members of South Korea's military will be tried in civilian courts under a new law passed on Tuesday (Aug 31), sparked by multiple scandals and victim suicides.

Activists and victims had accused South Korea's powerful military of standing in the way of previous efforts to reduce the power commanders have over the process, but reform efforts gathered steam after a series of deaths and prominent crimes.

Under the revised Military Court Act, all sex crimes, as well as violent crimes such as homicides, will be tried from the start at civilian courts, rather than courts martial.

Military courts will be consolidated, while military police and prosecutors will be placed under the defence minister and the chiefs of each service branch in an effort to reduce the influence of commanders.

Fewer than 10 per cent of almost 2,000 sex crime cases tried in military courts from 2016 to 2020 resulted in prison sentences, compared with about 30 per cent of such cases in civilian courts, according to court documents.

Source: Reuters/lk

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