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Watchdog advises police against disclosing history of mental illness in cases

All News 14:37 November 11, 2020

SEOUL, Nov. 11 (Yonhap) -- The state human rights watchdog on Wednesday advised police against disclosing any history of mental illness in people involved in a case.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea said making such disclosures to the media without the person's consent amounts to a violation of human rights and should be subject to an internal review by the police if necessary.

This file photo shows the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"Considering our society's attitude toward people with mental illnesses and social norms, it is highly likely that such a history, or the fact that it is ongoing, is not information one wants to disclose," the watchdog said.

The commission noted that police's own communications rules call for disclosing information related to a case only when it is deemed necessary for the public's safety, and even then, excluding personal information.

"Leaking information to the press about a person's history of mental illness, after that person has been placed under police custody and no longer poses a threat, is an invasion of the confidentiality and freedom of privacy under the Constitution," it said.

Citing 2016 data from the Supreme Prosecutors Office, the commission pointed out that the crime rate among those without a history of mental illness was 1.4 percent, around 15 times higher than the 0.1 percent among those with mental illnesses.

"Discrimination and bias against a particular group not only undermine social unity, they become a cause for pain from social stigma and avoidance of treatment," it said.


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