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UN human rights expert urges halt to rising hostility on Korean Peninsula

GENEVA (25 April 2017) – An urgent appeal to lower political and military tensions on the Korean Peninsula over continued missile tests by the authorities in Pyongyang is being made by a United Nations expert, who says the war of words is already having an impact on citizens.

“The recent rise in conflict rhetoric is worsening already critical human rights challenges in North Korea,” says the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, Tomás OJEA QUINTANA.

“At a time when the international community needs to come together to protect the rights of people in the DPRK, we are instead witnessing a rise in incitement to armed confrontation,” he said.

“Statements that feed hatred and polarization do nothing but undermine opportunities to improve the dire situation of ordinary North Koreans,” the human rights expert stressed.

The appeal by the Special Rapporteur follows a series of declarations and military actions which have fuelled tensions in the region, including the DPRK’s programme of nuclear and ballistic missile tests, and the deployment of a United States aircraft carrier group to the area. 

“The onus is on all of us to lower tensions and restore dialogue, including on human rights. But UN member States, in particular the DPRK and other governments involved in current hostilities, have to realise the great responsibility on their shoulders to preserve peace and stability, in accordance with the UN Charter”, Mr. OJEA QUINTANA noted.

The DPRK remains subject to international and unilateral sanctions to curb its nuclear programme. Despite this, the country has reportedly conducted five nuclear tests since 2006 and continues to carry out long-range missile launches on a regular basis.

Mr. Tomás OJEA QUINTANA (Argentina) was designated as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016. Mr. Ojea Quintana, a lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in human rights, worked for the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and represented the Argentinian NGO “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” in cases concerning child abduction during the military regime. He is a former Head of OHCHR human rights programme in Bolivia, and served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar from 2008 to 2014.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: DPRK

OHCHR Seoul Office

For additional information and media requests, please contact in English, Tarek Cheniti    (+82 2 725 3522 / tcheniti@ohchr.org) or in Korean, YounKyo Ahn (+82 2 725 3523 / yahn@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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