DPR Korea: With victims’ suffering ‘enormous,’ urgent solution needed –UN rights expert

Cultivating a field in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Photo: FAO

25 November 2016 – Wrapping up a 10-day visit to Northeast Asia, a United Nations human rights expert today called for a multi-faceted and people-centred approach to improve the “extremely complex” situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“I met people who have lost trace of close relatives as a result of abductions or displacement during the Korean War. Their suffering is enormous and the urgency for the solution is accelerating with advancing age of victims and their families”, said Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

According to the UN human rights office, since the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, in 2004, successive mandate holders have made requests to visit the DPR Korea, however, access has so far not been granted. In that regard, the experts have visited other countries in the region such as Japan, Thailand and the Republic of Korea.

This was Mr. Ojea Quintana’s first visit to Northeast Asia after being appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR Korea) by the UN Human Rights Council in August. He visited the Republic of Korea and Japan.

Further in the release, the Special Rapporteur stressed the need of holding the perpetrators of human rights violations accountable. By doing so, further violations could be deterred, he added.

He also said that pursuing accountability as well as expanding humanitarian and human rights initiatives by pushing for more engagement with authorities in DPR Korea – two approaches taken by the civil society in the country – are complementary and that all civil society groups deserve his support.

Noting that it was remarkable that the people who had to leave DPR Korea were “well aware” of their rights and that discussions with them helped him understand some of the human rights violations that motivated their decision to leave.

“I was particularly moved by their testimonies as well as their resilience,” he said, adding: “Despite all the challenges that they have been through, they now look forward to the future.”

The Special Rapporteur will present a full report on his mission to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in March 2017.

Independent experts and Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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