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19 December 2006

The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea issued the following statement on 18 December in Seoul:

“The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, paid an official visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) from 14 till 18 December 2006. This was his second visit to the country in his capacity as Special Rapporteur and was part of information-gathering to prepare his next report to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in early 2007.

“The UN Special Rapporteur conveys his warmest thanks to the ROK Government and the United Nations Development Programme for facilitating his visit. He had full access to all individuals and agencies which he sought to meet. He carried out discussions with government officials, parliamentarians, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and other members of civil society, on the issue of human rights in the DPRK and its impact on the ROK. A key part of his visit was to meet those who had sought refuge from the DPRK, and he was very pleased to pay a visit to the well-maintained Hanawon facility where they are provided with initial training to adapt to the ROK. He felt it a great privilege to meet them and to reflect their concerns in his work for the UN.

“The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was established in 2004 by the UN Human Rights Commission, Geneva. It was extended under the newly formed UN Human Rights Council in 2006 for one year, and the Special Rapporteur is tasked with preparing and submitting reports to both the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. The mandate of his work encompasses a variety of questions relating to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, ranging from humanitarian aid (especially food aid to the DPRK) to asylum, abductions of foreigners and related transgressions on the part of the DPRK. Regrettably the DPRK has refused to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and has declined to invite him into the country.

“In 2006 matters were made more complicated by the various missile and nuclear tests carried out by the DPRK which led to global condemnation, especially through unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolutions imposing sanctions on the DPRK. Interestingly, in the Preamble of UN Security Council Resolution 1718 imposing such sanctions, the issue of human rights is referred to impliedly by the emphasis on “other security and humanitarian concerns of the international community”.

“Significantly the ROK voted in favour of the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, passed by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, in November 2006. The resolution expresses very serious concern at a variety of human rights violations in the DPRK and strongly urges the latter to respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. It also requests the UN Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur to report to the UN on the situation next year. The Special Rapporteur is of the view that there is a related need to enable the negotiations known as the six-party talks (involving six countries including the ROK and the DPRK) to resume to solve key issues, primarily focusing on the nuclear problem facing the Korean peninsula, which may also have impact on the human rights situation; a positive development on that front will contribute to the space for humanitarian action progressively.

“It can be recalled that at the end of the UN Special Rapporteur’s visit to the ROK for the first time in regard to his mandate in 2005, he issued a Six Points Human Rights Formula. Elements of the Six Points deserve to be underlined today, during the second visit of the Special Rapporteur in 2006, together with other emphases as follows:

“The Special Rapporteur:

“Encourages the ROK and the DPRK , in the spirit of Inter-Korean dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation, to maximise family reunion opportunities; and urges the DPRK to clarify and resolve effectively the longstanding problem of missing persons, bearing in mind the importance of resuming Inter-Korean Ministerial Talks in future as part of the process to support the improvement of human rights in the DPRK;

“Supports the ROK and the international community to improve the human rights situation in the DPRK, in particular the right to food; provide humanitarian aid, including food aid, to the DPRK, which, although currently suspended on the part of the ROK, might be resumed at the appropriate time on the ground of humanitarism, with adequate monitoring to access the target group of beneficiaries; and urges the DPRK to build food security through sustainable agricultural techniques, good governance, broad-based people’s participation in decision-making processes, and equitable allocation of resources to respond to the development needs of the country;

“Encourages the ROK to continue its humanitarian policy of accepting those who have sought refuge from the DPRK and to facilitate their social recovery and reintegration, with more opportunities for vocational training and other supports with a view to accessing a variety of employment and livelihood options sustainably;

“Calls upon the DPRK to end the various discrepancies and transgressions concerning respect for human rights in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural fields in the country, and to implement effectively the human rights treaties to which it is a party and the various recommendations addressed to the DPRK by a variety of UN human rights mechanisms, including the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur in his reports to the UN;
Urges the DPRK to invite the UN Special Rapporteur and other UN human rights mechanisms to visit the country to take stock of the human rights situation and recommend reforms and related follow-up;

“Invites the DPRK progressively to engage in cooperative activities with the international community to improve the implementation of human rights in the country, such as through human rights dialogue(s) supported by technical assistance, economic programmes with a human rights component, and Rule of Law programmes (e.g. training and education to capacity-build law enforcers, to respect civil liberties, and to reform the prison system), with greater space for civil society participation.

“The above should be complemented by active and practical steps to ensure progress and achieve substantive improvements of human rights` implementation in the DPRK”.