23 October 2008 The United Nations expert monitoring the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) today said that urgent action is essential to reverse the “very negative” human rights situation in the East Asian nation.
“We have not had enough action to demilitarize locally nor have we had enough action to shift the pro-military budget to the pro-development budget which is much required,” Vitit Muntarbhorn, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, told reporters in New York.
He said that he has received “very worrying information” regarding the chronic food shortage in the country, with UN agencies recording declines in food availability, accessibility and consumption.
But the expert said that DPRK has cooperated “relatively well” with the UN. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has more than doubled the number of people it reaches with assistance to some 6.5 million this year.
Although the nation is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), it is a “non-open, non-democratic system, extremely closed and repressive,” he noted. This has resulted in limited freedom of expression, religion, association and communications.
Further, Mr. Muntarbhorn, who addressed the General Assembly today, said he has received reports of public executions, a non-independent judiciary and torture.
In the short-term, he called for the country to “open the door to food aid with adequate monitoring,” halt public executions and quickly resolve the issue of abductions.
The Rapporteur, who has served in the position since the mandate was established in 2004, has not been allowed into the DPRK.
Looking to the future, he said that “while we recognize the need for food aid, we must talk more and advocate more the question of food security, which means more than giving but enabling sustainable agriculture to take place within the country as well as environmental management, resource allocations, as well as disaster preparedness.”
News Tracker: past stories on this issue