… Despite Liberia’s assertion of diplomatic immunity for the two officials, Korea has, through diplomatic channels, rejected all claims of immunity, the government has said.
The criminal trial of two employees of the Liberia Maritime Authority over alleged sexual assaults of minors in South Korea begins today.
The officials — Moses Owen Browne, Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in the UK and Daniel Tarr, Director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection at the LiMA, have been charged with multiple counts of alleged sexual assault.
Browne and Tarr’s criminal trial comes nearly three months after they had been arrested by the Busan Police for allegedly sexually assaulting two minors, aged 14 and 16, constituting the crime of statutory rape under South Korean criminal law.
They have been in police custody since September 22, as a result of the arrest, which was made after a friend of the alleged victims reported the case to the police. The two officials were in South Korea representing Liberia at a training seminar, organized by the International Maritime Organization.
According to the Liberia Maritime Authority, despite Liberia’s assertion of diplomatic immunity of the two officials, Korea has, through diplomatic channels, rejected all claims of immunity, saying they were not assigned to Liberia’s diplomatic mission to Korea, nor were they “attending a diplomatic conference when the alleged incident occurred in Busan, South Korea.”
The government, the release said, has then dispatched a legal team, headed by its principal director of legal services, to retain the services of a South Korean law firm to provide legal representation for Browne and Tarr. Pureum Law Office, a law firm that specializes in the criminal defense of foreign nationals in South Korea, has been hired by the Government of Liberia to represent the legal interest of two of its employees.
“Pureum Law Office has since also met with Browne and Tarr on multiple occasions and begun to provide legal representation for the two Officials. Browne and Tarr have both denied raping the two Korean ladies and have, under legal guidance from Pureum Law Office, entered a plea of not guilty to all of the charges levied by the South Korean Authorities.”
Browne and Tarr’s fate, now that the South Korean authorities have rejected the claim of diplomatic immunity, lies with the judge presiding over the case, which is expected to last for weeks or months. In Korea, the jury system is not widely used in the judiciary. However, since 2008 a limited provision for advisory juries has been introduced for criminal cases and environmental cases, and all questions of law and fact are decided by judges.
It is however not yet clear if Browne and Tarr will have a jury. They are expected to serve a jail term of fewer than seven years, according to South Korean law. Statutory rape, according to South Korean Law, occurs when an individual has consensual sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 20 in South Korean age.
The age of consent in South Korea is 20 years old, at which time an individual is considered legally old enough to consent to participation in sexual activity.
Individuals aged 19 or younger in South Korea are not legally able to consent to sexual activity, and such activity may result in prosecution for statutory rape or the equivalent local law.
Meanwhile, the government has said the Liberian legal team met with the accused at the detention center in the Port City of Busan and confirmed that they were in good health and being accorded appropriate treatment while under detention.
“The Liberian legal team remains engaged with Pureum Law Office to ensure that the two officials receive adequate legal representation throughout the trial of this case.
According to the government, since the arrest of Browne and Tarr on the charges of multiple sexual assaults, they have been engaged with South Korea through official diplomatic channels, including transmitting three (3) different diplomatic notes, asserting inter alia the diplomatic statuses of the two Liberian Officials.
“The Republic of Liberia had, upon learning of the arrest, dispatched a Consular of the Liberian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan (which also covers the Republic of Korea) to ascertain the facts of the alleged incident and to assert Liberia’s claim of diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution of the two officials.”
“In spite of Liberia’s assertion of diplomatic immunity of the two officials, Korea has, through diplomatic channels, rejected all claims of immunity. Cognizant of the gravity of the charges levied against two of its officials, Liberia remains engaged with Korea to establish the facts of this case and safeguard the due process rights of Browne and Tarr,” the release said. “Liberia also continues to engage Korea through official diplomatic channels to ensure that the two Liberian officials are accorded rights and privileges consistent with international law.”
Meanwhile, an earlier release from the Liberia Maritime Authority, immediately after the two men were reported arrested, described the allegation against its officials as grave and views their alleged conduct as having no place in any civilized society.
“LiMA unequivocally maintains a zero-tolerance stance on any types of sexual and gender-based offenses, and views these allegations of the conduct of its Officials as most egregious, having no place in any civilized society,” the release said at the time.
“[We] will fully cooperate with the Government of the Republic of Korea in the investigation of this incident and vow to take appropriate actions, pursuant to national and international Law.”