UN rights expert calls for 'unimpeded access' to DPR of Korea

29 October 2004

A United Nations human rights expert today called on the international community to persuade the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to reverse its policy of imposing restrictions on the movement of UN agencies involved in humanitarian programmes.

Addressing a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, Vivit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DPRK, said despite their presence in the country, UN agencies were facing difficulties in assessing the population's need for food assistance.

Describing food shortage as a "critical" humanitarian issue in the DPRK, the Rapporteur said the UN agencies were helpful, but only to a "limited" extent, because their mobility was restricted.

Mr. Muntarbhorn, a law professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said the Government showed some signs of positive development in observing human rights, but added that Pyongyang continued to lack transparency and accountability. "The key challenge is not the normative side," he said, "but how it's implemented. That's the basic, basic challenge."

He said despite his repeated requests, the DPRK Government did not allow him to enter Pyongyang. Nevertheless, he added, he still hoped that the Government might change its decision.

The Rapporteur also said he received massive complaints about arbitrary detentions, which suggested "a certain pattern that gives rise to serious concerns." He, however, admitted that such complaints were "allegations" that could not be verified.

Expressing his concerns about the plight of those fleeing the DPRK, whether due to economic or political reasons, Mr. Muntarbhorn urged the international community to promote inter-country cooperation to protect the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.

 

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