Independent UN human rights expert highlights serious transgressions in DPR Korea

27 September 2006

Painting a grim picture of the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), an independent United Nations expert today highlighted egregious transgressions involving the rights to food and life, humane treatment and a host of other freedoms in a report given to the Human Rights Council.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, said that the State had declined to cooperate with him and had not invited him to the country, while the North Korean representative who also spoke during today’s debate flatly denied all findings in the report.

The situation in the country provides a continuing cause for concern – there are still many transgressions and discrepancies of an egregious nature, which require effective redress, Mr. Muntarbhorn said, according to a press release from the Council.

Specific concerns raised in this report include women’s rights, particularly violence against women; children’s rights, particularly to protection and participation; the rights of older persons/the elderly; the rights of those with disabilities; and ethnic issues, he continued.

In response, Choe Myong Nam said the DPRK resolutely rejected the report, adding that the country was a target of a “human rights offensive” by the United States, which wanted to dominate the whole Korean peninsula. He said Japan had also been fanatical in its clamour against the country.

Representatives from 10 other countries also made statements during the debate, before the 47-member Council went on to discuss reports on Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Myanmar.

Akich Okola, Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Burundi, said the new Government had made commendable strides in the area of social and economic rights and had also satisfactorily resolved the issue of political prisoners. However, the overall human rights situation remained of deep concern, he said.

Human rights violations still continued on a daily basis due to the culture of impunity, widespread poverty, and the weakness of the culture of human rights in general, Mr. Okola said, adding that the most violated rights were those to life, physical integrity, safety and inviolability of the person, opinion and expression, and property.

In response, Francoise Ngendahayo of Burundi said elected democratic institutions had only been operating for a year and the period was relatively short to make an objective evaluation of the actions of the Government and in particular of the human rights situation.

The socio-economic situation of the country should also be considered as 12 years of civil war had destroyed the infrastructure, devalued the currency by diminishing the purchasing power of the population, and also destroyed social, moral and human values, the representative added. Six other countries also made related statements.

Turning to the DRC, the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights, Titinga Frederic Pacere, was considered in his absence. The report highlighted that the human rights situation continues to be a matter of concern throughout the country, but especially in the eastern regions and in northern Katanga, where militias and other armed groups are committing atrocities.

In response, Marie Madeleine Kalala requested that the Independent Expert visit the DRC in the next few days to see the changes on the ground in a number of key areas.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that he had not been permitted to conduct a fact-finding mission to the country since November 2003. He said grave human rights violations were taking place not only with impunity but authorized by the sanction of law, adding that the criminalization of the exercise of fundamental freedoms by political opponents, human rights defenders and victims of human rights abuses was a matter of grave concern.

Responding, U Nyunt Maung Shein said that although there were many contentious chapters in the report that Myanmar could argue against, time constraints would allow him to take up only a few cases to shed light on the truth, especially regarding forced labour.

In particular, he contradicted the report’s view that relations between Myanmar and the International Labour Organization were deteriorating, saying there had been positive developments and two persons mentioned in the report in this connection – Su Su Nway and Aye Myint – had been released from prison.

He also said the perception that there were vast violations of human rights was not accurate and entirely based on information collected from a few remaining insurgent groups confined to border areas and foreign-funded expatriates with a hidden political agenda.

Representatives from 11 countries made statements before the Council discussed a report from Arjun Sengupta, Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, which highlighted that poverty existed in most countries as a failure of social action.

This second session of the Council, set up earlier this year to replace the much-criticized Commission on Human Rights, opened on 18 September and will run until 6 October.


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