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UN rights expert welcomes release of Canadian pastor in North Korea

North Korea / Release

11 August 2017

Korean version

GENEVA (11 August 2017) – A United Nations human rights expert has welcomed the release of Canadian Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who had been detained in North Korea since February 2015.  

“I am delighted by Pastor Lim’s release from prison on humanitarian grounds. He is among several foreign nationals who have been arrested in the DPRK in the past couple of years and given a harsh sentence,” said Tomás OJEA QUINTANA, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). 

Mr. Lim was sentenced in December 2015 to hard labour for life for allegedly plotting hostile acts against the State. 

Six South Koreans and three US citizens are currently detained in DPRK. Otto Warmbier, a US student who had been held for 17 months, was released in June in a coma and died within days of being flown home to the US.  

The Special Rapporteur said the situation of the remaining prisoners should be closely observed. 

“I am concerned by reports that detainees are not receiving due legal process and are being held in inhumane conditions,” Mr. OJEA QUINTANA said. 

“The State is obliged to provide foreigners with access to consular support and an interpreter, but these entitlements cannot be taken for granted based on the information I have been receiving,” he noted. 

The release of Mr. Lim on 9 August comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region, with leaders in DPRK and the United States exchanging threats of direct military confrontation. 

“These threats divert attention from the situation of ordinary North Koreans, whose subsistence and protection needs should be treated as an absolute priority,” the expert warned. 

“A climate of peace and cooperation is fundamental to bringing these issues back into focus, and recent calls for dialogue need to be translated into concrete gestures,” he added. 

The Special Rapporteur will present his annual report during the General Assembly in October 2017. 

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 / [email protected]) or in Korean, YounKyo Ahn (+82 2 725 3523 / [email protected]) 

For media inquiries related to other UN mandates: 

Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]) 

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