Tuesday, March 16, 2010

North Korea: Harrowing and horrific human rights violations

UN - The many instances of harrowing and horrific human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will continue unless certain measures at the national and international levels are taken, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the country said today.

“From witnessing the human rights situation in the country for the past six years, one finding is glaring: the abuses against the general population, for which authorities should be responsible, are both egregious and endemic,” said Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn, introducing his final report today to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Mr. Muntarbhorn’s maximum term of six years expires this year.

“This is not to deny that there have been some constructive developments throughout the years,” he added. But he noted that “the general scenario is bleak.”

Mr. Muntarbhorn said that the non-democratic nature of the power base in the DPRK had created a “State of Fear” in which military needs are put ahead of people’s needs.

In his report, he suggested that the DPRK should immediately cooperate with UN agencies and other humanitarian actors, and ensure effective provision of and access to food and other basic necessities. He noted that at the end of 2009, authorities had imposed a currency revaluation, causing huge inflation, particularly affecting the price of food, and widespread suffering.

He advised a moratorium on capital punishment and public executions, and also terminating the punishment for those who sought asylum abroad and were sent back.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur called on the Government to resolve the issue of foreigners abducted as a consequence of the Korean War in 1950 to 1953.

In the longer-term, Mr. Muntarbhorn called for greater people’s participation in their government which would put them and their freedoms ahead of militarization and would abide by international human rights standards.

The Special Rapporteur noted that the situation in the DPRK is a “special challenge of the role of the United Nations to impel constructive changes and accountability” and noted the UN as a tool to hold DPRK accountable where national institutions had failed.

“Various sources have suggested a number of ways of making the powers-that-be accountable internationally, given that the national setting is unable or unwilling to press for such accountability. They include the possibility of the UN Security Council taking up the issue directly and of establishing a Commission of Inquiry on crimes against humanity.”

In response, Choe Myong Nam, a representative for the DPRK, categorically rejected the “Special Rapporteur” and his report.

He called the Special Rapporteur position a “product of political confrontation having no relevance with human rights” and called for the position’s elimination once and for all.

The representative added that the position existed as a result of “resolutions” enforced every year by the United States, Japan and the European Union, as part of attempts to eliminate the State and social system of the DPRK.

As a Special Rapporteur, Mr. Muntarbhorn serves in an independent and unpaid capacity and reports to the Human Rights Council.

The release of his report comes one month after B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, visited the DPRK. He held what he termed “friendly but frank” discussions on a series of issues, including nuclear activities and DPRK’s relations with other countries.

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