MONROVIA – In the wake of mounting public concerns about the status of the two Liberian officials who were arrested recently in Busan, South Korea over allegations of rape, especially as it pertains to what the Government of Liberia is doing to ensure that the rights of the accused Liberian government officials are protected under the Geneva Convention, and that they have legal representation in the event of a court hearing, The Analyst has reliably gathered that contrary to public opinion accusing the Government of Liberia of doing little or nothing to address the plight of the two arrested officials, the Government of Liberia has actually gone overboard to pressure the South Korean Government to follow international norms and protocols and ensure that the arrested Liberian officials are not only given a fair trial, but that their rights and privileges governing all foreign agents and diplomats are respected.
Speaking to The Analyst paper last Sunday, a well-connected Liberian diplomatic source disclosed that the Government of Liberia has done everything consistent with what other governments will do, but that the Government of South Korea has been reticent in addressing the concerns of the Government of Liberia with regards to its incarcerated citizens.
According to the diplomatic source, no matter the crime that a citizen commits, the government’s responsibility first and foremost is to ensure the rights of that citizen is protected and their wellbeing is satisfied.
“Also, there are obligations the South Korean government must follow at all times in dealing with foreigners. That’s the conventional rule of diplomacy. But what did the Liberian government do specifically? The government did a diplomatic note; I am not talking about their employer, the Bureau Maritime Affairs; I am talking about the government. We issued the diplomatic note Verbale not because we received any formal complaint from the South Korean Government through their Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but because the issue was in the news.
“So, we issued a Note Verbale to the Foreign Ministry of South Korea through the South Korean Embassy in Nigeria and through our Embassy in Japan because Japan covers South Korea. In that note, the Liberian Government informed the South Korean Government that two of our nationals had been detained in Busan in Korea. The Government of Liberia wanted the South Korean Government to provide information as to the allegation in order to help the government of Liberia advise on the next step or the next course of action.
“Our Note Verbale reminded the Government of South Korea of their obligation under international law to protect the rights of the accused persons. That is the first step we took as a government, and that’s the normal channel because they had not formally written to the Liberian Government that they have two of our citizens arrested in Korea,” the diplomatic source intimated to The Analyst.
The diplomatic source further intimated that the Government of Liberia later received a report, not from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the South Korean Government, but from their Busan Police about the incident, which the Liberian government accordingly considered unofficial.
“So based on the Report from the Busan Police, the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dispatched a consular officer from our Embassy in Japan to South Korea to ascertain the facts and to see the treatment meted out against our officials and our citizens, and to examine circumstances leading to what transpired. That is the first step the Government of Liberia took. We call such intervention consular service,” the diplomatic source intimated.
It was further disclosed by our diplomatic source that the consular officer went to Busan, met the police and inquired about what transpired.
“In the consular officer report, the officer observed a number of things and reported back to the Ambassador of Japan, Blamo Nelson. What did we do upon hearing that? The Government of Liberia again issued a second Note Verbale referring to the first Note Verbale, regarding an allegation, arrest and detention of our citizens; to which the Korean Government had not responded.
“Hence, we requested that they respond to the allegations first; and second, that there were observations on the treatment of our nationals. And we reminded them of the obligations of the international protocols. We sent the Diplomatic Note last week based on the Report of our First Secretary,” the diplomatic source stated emphatically, noting that the Korean Government through their Foreign Ministry is shying away from putting itself on record, so that’s why they did not respond to the Government of Liberia’s two Note Verbales.
A Way Forward
According to our diplomatic source, there is a court case that was expected to come up on Monday, October 10, 2022.
“Our job is to provide legal representation to our accused citizens. We are in the process of hiring a good Korean lawyer that understands the nature of the accusation and to represent our citizens.
“The next move is to summon the South Korean Ambassador from Nigeria because we’ve written to him twice and he has not responded to any of our Notes. As it stands right now, we sent two Notes. We’ve sent a representation on the ground. We are providing legal representation to hear the subject matter. You don’t just hire a lawyer based on a list; you get a lawyer based on the record of achievement. The Embassy is looking at lawyers with the requisite achievement rating; someone who has an understanding of the African terrain,” our diplomatic source intimated.
Meanwhile, The Analyst has not able to confirm whether or not the two officials have gone to court as was indicated by the diplomatic source.