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UN rights expert urges Russia not to implement the new extradition treaty with North Korea


GENEVA / SEOUL (26 February 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Marzuki Darusman, urges the Government of the Russian Federation not to implement the extradition treaty signed with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) earlier this month.

According to reports, there are an estimated 10,000 North Korean regular labourers in Russia, some of whom stay in the country after their contracts have expired in order to seek asylum. Others fleeing the DPRK try to reach Russia through other countries. 

“I am alarmed by the new extradition treaty signed between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Russian Federation on 2 February 2016. The treaty calls for transferring and readmitting individuals ‘who have illegally’ left their country and stay ‘illegally’ in another’s territory.

In November 2015, Russia signed a separate extradition treaty with the DPRK, calling for mutual assistance in criminal matters. I am concerned that the latest treaty is much broader in scope and may lead to forced repatriation to the DPRK of individuals at risk of human rights violations, in contravention of Russia’s international obligations.

Given the practice of the DPRK to send labourers to Russia, who often work in slave-like conditions, it is feared that such a treaty could also be used to capture and repatriate workers who attempt to seek asylum.

In fact the practice of sending workers abroad to be exploited may constitute state-sponsored enslavement of human beings, possibly amounting to a specific category of crime against humanity.

At this very moment, when the deployment of such labourers has become a matter of grave concern, the signing of an agreement of this nature amplifies the apprehension of the international community.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK, in its 2014 report*, found that persons who are forcibly repatriated to the DPRK are commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced abortions and other sexual violence. The Commission called on countries to respect the principle of non-refoulement and abstain from forcibly repatriating any persons to the DPRK.

I also note that the signing of the treaty took place against the context where the DPRK continues to commit deliberate belligerent acts, such as nuclear testing followed by the latest missile launch. Such acts adversely impact on the constructive efforts to address the ongoing gross human rights violations in the country, and reinforce even further the international community’s resolve to pursue political and legal accountability.

I strongly urge Russia to respect the principle of non-refoulement and not to implement the treaty.”

(*) Read the Commission of Inquiry’s report: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/coidprk/pages/commissioninquiryonhrindprk.aspx

Mr. Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) was appointed 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. He has served in a three-member UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and chaired the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. In March 2013, the Human Rights Council designated Special Rapporteur Darusman to serve simultaneously on a three-member Commission of Inquiry to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave reports of violations of human rights in DPRK. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/KP/Pages/SRDPRKorea.aspx

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 pages:
DPRK: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KPIndex.aspx
Russian Federation: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/RUIndex.aspx 

OHCHR Seoul Office: http://seoul.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/HOME.aspx

For additional information and media requests, please contact in English, Tarek Cheniti (+82 10 5927 8724/ tcheniti@ohchr.org) or in Korean, YounKyo Ahn (+82 10 6607 3595 /yahn@ohchr.org)

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