On December 3, the Seoul Central District Court judged the responsibility of refugee officials, interpreters, and the state in a national compensation suit filed by the victim of the September 2018 interview report manipulation case. Refugee officials and interpreters who participated in the manipulation of refugee interviews were liable for manipulation due to intention or gross negligence, and jointly recognized the state's liability for compensation. The Refugee Human Rights Network welcomes the court's ruling.
The court first pointed out that the refugee interview procedure is actually the most basic and important procedure to determine whether to recognize refugees. On this premise, the court stressed that refugee officials should 1) give refugee applicants a chance to fully explain their reasons for persecution, 2) ask in-depth questions about the reasons for refugee applications or threats they received during the interview, 3) and have a faithful interview. 4) The refugee applicant's statement should be accurately interpreted and the statement should be accurately written in the interview report without distortion or manipulation. 5) When the interview report is completed, there is an obligation to allow refugee applicants to check the contents. But the refugee official violated it.
However, the court did not judge about the responsibility of systematically instructing the operation of the illegal refugee screening system by the Ministry of Justice, confirming that since September 4, 2015, refugee interview cases for Egyptians have been classified as “fast” screening. As already revealed through media reports and recommendations by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, since late 2014, the Ministry of Justice has classified refugee applications into four stages, from "fast" to "precision," and operated guidelines for refugee screening. According to the guidelines, the Ministry of Justice designated more widely than the law restricted. In addition, refugee officials were pressured to thoroughly comply with these guidelines and to report to the headquarters by individually writing official documents and attaching interview reports.
The "fast" screening, such as the guidelines of the Ministry of Justice, is an arbitrary categorization of the subject by the Ministry of Justice, neglecting its obligation to conduct a faithful examination based on the Convention and the Refugee Act. In addition, it can be said that a series of systematic instructions to "thoroughly comply with" guidelines such as simple interviews and omission of fact-finding, which completely ignored the procedural rights of refugee applicants, eventually led to false manipulation of interview records. Therefore, the Korean government is responsible for illegal activities in the preparation of guidelines and the prompt examination itself. Nevertheless, the court acknowledged only the responsibility of compensation for the management and supervision of public officials and interpreters and did not judge the state's systematic prompt review, so it cannot be considered to have sufficiently stated responsibility for this case. It is hoped that there will be a clear judgment in the subsequent appellate court.
As part of a policy to resolve it in February 2020, the Ministry of Justice implemented a re-examination policy to give all refugee applicants who were reviewed in Arabic from September 2015 to June 2018 an opportunity to apply for refugee status again. However, as of October 2021, only 74 cases were completed, except for 152 cases that were withdrawn due to departure. In addition, no compensation plans have been mentioned about for those who have already been found as victims. As long as the court judged about the refugee interview manipulation case and the State's liability for compensation is recognized, we expect the Ministry of Justice to apologize for the victims of the interview report manipulation case and quickly come up with the measures to compensate for all the damage.
December 17th, 2021.
Korea Refugee Rights Network
Translation by Nancen
Judgment (to be translated into English soon) https://nancen.org/2208