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End of mission statement to Japan of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Korean | Japanese

TOKYO (22 January 2016) – I am very pleased to be back in Japan. This is my final visit to Japan as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). I thank the Japanese Government for its continuous support and collaboration during the past six years.

This visit took place following the latest nuclear test by the DPRK. I regret to say that any act that can be construed as violence against the international community has negative implications on the human rights situation in the DPRK. Such an act immediately overshadows the continuous efforts by the international community to improve the human rights situation in the DPRK. Consequently, it was all the more important for the international community to step up efforts to engage with the DPRK in human rights dialogue while seeking to ensure accountability.

In the past five days, I met with family members of victims of abduction, and had fruitful discussion with representatives of civil society organizations. I also met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister in charge of the Abduction Issue, high-level officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet Headquarters on the Abduction Issues, Cabinet Intelligence and parliamentarians. I also had a privilege to meet with officials of the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court and National Police Agency.

In July this year, I will complete my term as the United Nations Special Rapporteur. Over the past six years, the human rights situation in the DPRK has been even more firmly placed on the international agenda. On 10 December 2015, the Security Council held its second discussion on the human rights situation in the DPRK. On 17 December 2015, the General Assembly passed its resolution condemning the human rights situation in the DPRK with the support of 119 of 193 United Nations Member States. This achievement is a result of collective efforts by many actors.

Efforts to improve the human rights situation in the DPRK must continue. In addition to continuing political pressure to exhort the DPRK to improve human rights, it is also now imperative to pursue criminal responsibility of the DPRK leadership. Not much has changed in the country almost two years after the report of the Commission of Inquiry.

Consequently, this visit focused on exchanging views with law enforcement agencies on national and international accountability issues. I had very informative discussions with the Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court and the National Police Agency. These discussions were exploratory in nature. They provided an opportunity to look at the legal framework and identify possible next steps and avenues for seeking accountability for serious human rights violations in the DPRK.

During my discussion with family members of victims of abduction and the Minister in charge of the Abduction Issue, we traced back the history of abductions of Japanese nationals.

Here, I stress that is on the historical record that Mr. Kim Jong-il, the then Supreme Leader of the DPRK, acknowledged that the country had been involved in abductions of Japanese citizens. Such an acknowledgement, without concrete and comprehensive solutions, naturally raises suspicion that the country continues to be involved and implicated in the abductions. We are therefore on a clear path and engaged in a just cause to pursue a final settlement of abduction of Japanese nationals, but also possibly of other nationals.

Fundamentally, abduction, as a form of enforced disappearance, is a continuous crime, which does not end until the victim’s family learns of the whereabouts of their loved one and, where possible, the survivors are immediately returned to their families.

Resolving the abduction issue is a matter of urgency. The families of victims are advancing in age. I am disappointed that there has been no concrete progress since Japan and the DPRK signed a bilateral agreement almost two years ago to work towards a resolution of this issue. I urge the DPRK to meet their commitment to the agreement and resume actively steps to restore the confidence between Japan and the DPRK.

This is a matter that does not only impact on Japan, but the international community. Progress on the abduction issue will contribute to the beginning of building trust and good will. Failure to act will undermine any good will that any future engagement might be undertaken with reasonable measures of trust.

The issue of trust goes to the heart of the obligations of every United Nations Member State to observe the Charter of the United Nations. The DPRK has an obligation to uphold and respect the Charter and international human rights law, exemplary of any full member of the United Nations.

As this is my final visit as the Special Rapporteur, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the people, civil society and the Government of Japan for their tremendous and unwavering support during the last six years.