Calls to Execute Captain of South Korean Ferry “Barbaric”

November 6th 2014 , ,

The International Organization of Masters, Mates, & Pilots (MM&P) has voiced alarm at reports that prosecutors in South Korea are seeking the death penalty for the captain of the ferry Sewol, which sank in April killing more than 300 people.

Prosecutors have charged Captain Lee Joon-seok with homicide for leaving the vessel “without making any efforts to rescue passengers” and have asked that he be put to death. They are seeking life sentences for three other members of the crew and terms of between 15 and 30 years for 11 crew members who were tried on lesser charges.

“While this is a horrifying maritime disaster, a vigilante reaction to hang the Captain and incarcerate other crew members, will do nothing more than mask the underlying deficiencies which led to the tragedy,” said MM&P President, Captain Don Marcus. “From what has come to light so far, this accident, like other industrial accidents, appears to be the consequence of mismanagement at many levels of the organization. To solely crucify the vessel master and members of the crew for the errors shared by others is a travesty of justice.” he said.

“Contributing to this particular tragedy appear to be problems in ship design, ineffective regulation, lack of training and the placement of profit ahead of safety” Marcus said. “MM&P joins the call for justice sounded by Nautilus International and other organizations representing professional mariners. The South Korean authorities must not seek to avoid their responsibly by pinning the blame on the captain and crew while ignoring their own systemic, underlying shortcomings in maritime regulation and enforcement.”

MM&P urges that sentences in the case should be handed down exclusively on the basis of a thorough and impartial accident investigation by competent professionals. “The object of the investigation should be to understand what caused this tragedy and to prevent a similar one from occurring in the future. Ferry disasters continue to occur with regularity around the world. The concept that executing or imprisoning some seafarers will in some way act to improve the national and international maritime standards that govern passenger vessel safety is as absurd as it is barbaric.”
The court is expected to deliver its verdict and sentences for all 15 crew members in November.