10 Jun 2012

Korea commission acknowledges abuses on fishing boats

2:33 pm on 10 June 2012

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea says it has investigated claims of abuse of crew members aboard a Korean foreign charter vessel fishing in New Zealand waters, but struggled to prove the allegations.

The commission says it interviewed six of the 32 seamen who abandoned the Oyang 75 vessel at Lyttelton Port in June last year.

It acknowledges human rights abuses did take place but says that, because most of the sailors had already gone back to Indonesia, it was difficult to collect substantial evidence to prove sexual harassment.

It said complaints about physical and verbal violence and low wages were dismissed because they weren't within the scope of its investigation.

The commission recommends the South Korean Government organise a joint team to further investigate human rights violations aboard deep-sea fishing vessels.

It also says fishing company owners should strengthen what it calls remedial measures for the promotion and protection of human rights of employees from foreign countries, because human rights violations on the high seas or foreign soil are difficult to rectify and could trigger "an inter-state conflict".

Auckland University researcher Glenn Simmons, who was part of a team that revealed abuse aboard some foreign charter vessels, says the commission has taken a strong line in recommending its Government set up a team to carry out a thorough investigation.