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UN human rights expert calls on North Korea’s new leadership to address long-standing human rights issues

TOKYO (20 January 2012) – The new leadership in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was on Friday urged to address pressing human rights concerns and resolve long-standing issues, including the abduction of Japanese and other foreign nationals, by the UN’s independent expert on human rights in the country.

At the end of an official visit to Japan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Marzuki Darusman said that “positive engagement of the DPRK with the international community would be welcomed by all quarters, as has been the case with Myanmar, where the adoption of reform processes are welcomed widely.”

“I am hoping that the new leadership in the DPRK will succession as an opportunity to engage with the international community and secure global confidence,” Mr. Darusman told a press conference in Tokyo. “The world is eagerly looking at the DPRK to see what lies ahead, and is hoping that the authorities will take measures to improve the human rights situation of the people in the country.”

“I call on the new leadership to address all questions and concerns in relation to human rights, and resolve outstanding issues such as the abduction of Japanese and other foreign nationals without further delay.”

During his mission to Japan, the Special Rapporteur held several meetings with Government officials, national and international NGOs and individuals, including the families of abducted Japanese nationals.

“The DPRK should stand by its commitment made to Japan of re-investigating the 12 pending cases of abduction,” Mr. Darusman said. “The urgency of the matter is clear, the abductees are getting old and so are their family members here in Japan.”

Mr. Darusman said that information gathered in talks with defectors from the DPRK suggested a dire humanitarian situation in the country, in particular a serious shortage of food, as well as a critical human rights situation.

“I also heard with concern that asylum seekers from the DPRK are being refouled by neighbouring countries, and that border control has been tightened over the last month or so, which makes fleeing the DPRK more difficult,” he said.

Since his appointment in August 2010, the Special Rapporteur has made several requests to visit DPRK, which have so far not been honoured. In absence of cooperation from DPRK, the Special Rapporteur has been visiting other countries in the region such as Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand.

Mr. Darusman said that he would approach the new DPRK leadership in the coming days to request a meeting and access to the country, with the hope that the authorities will agree.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11767&LangID=E

END

Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) was designated Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in August 2010 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity. He is a member of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, and has served in various capacities at the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission. Mr. Darusman is a Law graduate from the Catholic University of Parahyangan Bandung, Indonesia.

UN Human Rights, country page – DPRK: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KPIndex.aspx

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/kp/mandate/index.htm

For additional information and media enquiries, please contact:

In Geneva: Ajith Sunghay (Tel: +41-79-444-4078/ email: asunghay@ohchr.org) or write to hr-dprk@ohchr.org

In Tokyo: (during the visit): Ms. Yasuko Senoo, UNIC Tokyo's Information Officer (Tel: +81 3 5467 4451 / email: yasuko.senoo@unic.org)

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

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