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DPRK: UN expert embarks on a new stage of human rights work

DPRK: UN expert embarks on a new stage of human rights work

Statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Marzuki Darusman, at the end of his visit to Japan, 8 to 10 April 2014

Tokyo, 10 April 2014 – This is my first visit to Japan since the Commission of Inquiry completed its work last month. I am here in the wake of a strong resolution on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) adopted by an overwhelming majority in the United Nations Human Rights Council on 28 March 2014. The resolution focuses on the findings and far-reaching recommendations of the Commission, which have turned a page and enabled us to begin a new stage of our work for human rights in DPRK.

I would like to express my high appreciation to the Government of Japan, the families of the victims, civil society, the media, and the Japanese people for being so fully engaged during this visit and throughout the nine months of the Commission’s work. Now, we are ready for another stage. And I will highlight my consultations during this visit in my next report to the Human Rights Council in June.

The purpose of this visit has been to set in train an immediate follow up to the work of the Commission. In the past few days, I met with the Foreign Minister, the Minister for abduction issues, families of victims, civil society and others to discuss the way forward. Many expressed appreciation for the Commission’s report. And my response has been: The Commission’s report is not a report of the Commission, but a report of the victims, who have survived and courageously spoken up about the unspeakable atrocities.

One of the most striking observations I have made as the Special Rapporteur and during my work in the Commission is that for so many years, DPRK has been able to conceal the true magnitude and gravity of its atrocities against its own people and the many victims abroad, including those from Japan. I am particularly worried about the 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners estimated to remain within the DPRK detention system today. These camps must be shut down and the prisoners be released without delay.

Now the world knows; the Commission’s report has provided a more holistic picture of the wide-ranging gross human rights violations that have been taking place in the country, and these crimes against humanity continue to happen as we speak.

I will go further than that. Not only do we know; the DPRK knows that we know. And this is powerful and can act as both a deterrent and an incentive to change course. This is one of the many reasons why I believe changes are possible. And we must seize the momentum and work together to effect real changes.

Let me share with you a few observations. The family reunions in the Korean Peninsula took place this February after years of suspension. This took place around the time when the Commission of Inquiry made public its report. A few days before the Commission presented its report to the Human Rights Council, the Yokota family, after years anguish since the abduction of their daughter Megumi, was able to meet and spend some time with their DPRK-born granddaughter and great-granddaughter in Mongolia.

Some might see these as coincidences. I believe that the revelation of the truth, international scrutiny, and sustained pressure have had an effect and will continue to do so. This is the reason why I think there are some key opportunities as we pursue human rights in DPRK after the Commission’s work.

Next week I will have the opportunity with my fellow Commissioners to brief UN Security Council members in an informal Arria formula on the work of the commission, including our important findings on the abduction issue. We will also be seeking to engage other UN mechanisms and to encourage facilitate a coordinated and robust \ response to the Commission’s recommendations from the United Nations system as a whole.

Another issue, which requires proactive engagement of the concerned governments with some urgency, is the implementation of the Human Rights Council resolution that mandates the establishment of a field-based structure to follow up on the Commission’s work. This needs to happen sooner rather than later to capture maintain the momentum and to ensure the continuation of monitoring and documentation of evidence.

Last but not least, the Commission also recommended a strategy to be developed by the Special Rapporteur, involving all concerned UN human rights mechanisms, to address the issue of international abduction, enforced disappearances and related matters coherently and without delay. This issue will always remain an integral part of the follow up work as we move forward.

The Commission found that well over 200,000 persons, including children, were brought from other countries to DRPK and many were never heard of again. This figure includes those who left for DPRK in the context of the Korean War. During my current visit, I was informed by the authorities that in addition to the 19 Japanese persons who are confirmed victims of abduction by DPRK, there are currently 860 missing persons who cannot be ruled out as having been abducted by DPRK.

Yesterday, for the first time in my visit as Special Rapporteur, the families of victims of abduction and a wide range of civil society actors met with me together to discuss the strategy I have been tasked to develop, and beyond. I am deeply encouraged by the sense of unity and commitment to seeking closure and bringing real changes that emerged during the discussion. It is in this spirit of hope and solidarity that we must work together as we embark on this new phase of DPRK human rights work.

I can see that the gravity of the Commission’s findings and the clarity it has given to the issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances have energized us all as we seek to develop a strategy forward. It is no longer a bi-lateral issue between Japan and DPRK, but one that concerns other countries and the international community at large. For this new strategy to succeed in addressing the issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances, we must work together.

All concerned governments, families, civil society and UN mechanisms must work together in this new chapter of DPRK human rights work. Time is running out. We must act to bring closure to the victims’ families and loved ones.

As Special Rapporteur, I will continue to seek to engage DPRK while continuing to pursue accountability, as reflected in the findings and recommendations of the Commission and mandated by the Human Rights Council.

Thank you.

Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the UN Human Rights Council in August 2010. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity. 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 Mr. Darusman to serve simultaneously on a three-member Commission of Inquiry to investigate and to report on the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in DPRK. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/KP/Pages/SRDPRKorea.aspx

Check the International Commission of Inquiry’s report on DPRK: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/CommissionInquiryonHRinDPRK.aspx

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

ENDS

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