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UN Calls For Redress Of Abuses In Nth Korea

UN Human Rights Expert Calls For Redress Of 'Egregious' Abuses In Dpr Of Korea

Torture, violence against woman and an absence of freedom of opinion and even the rule of law are among the apparent "egregious" abuses that a United Nations human rights expert urges redressed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in a new report to the General Assembly.

Though not yet invited by the Government to investigate such abuses in situ, Vitit Muntarbhorn, the Special Rapporteur appointed last year by the UN Commission on Human Rights to examine human rights in the DPRK, based his report on documented allegations of abuse of "the right to food and the right to life, the right to security of the person, human treatment, non-discrimination and access to justice," and a host of other rights.

"While the Special Rapporteur is not in a position to verify all these reports and allegations, initial impressions suggest that the mass of reports and related allegations cannot be seen as merely coincidental, as they seem to raise a pattern of malpractices calling for immediate redress and checks and balances against abuse of power," Mr. Muntarbhorn says in the report.

Among a lengthy, "imperative but not exhaustive" list of actions that must be taken by the DPRK to conform to international rights standards, he recommends, first of all, that the country abide by the four human rights treaties to which it is a party.

Beside the abuse of persons in custody, the Rapporteur finds most disconcerting the punishment of families of those accused of political or ideological offences, as well as division of the population into most loyal, "wavering" and "enemies of the authorities," with treatment and resources meted out accordingly.

He also cites a high child malnutrition rate despite a decline in the last two years, with stunting of growth reported in 37 per cent of children, as well as allegations of violence against women both at home and in prisons that have substandard conditions.

There have been some positive developments, the Rapporteur says. The Government has been submitting reports under its obligations to the four human rights treaties mentioned, and has cooperated with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on child health services. It also has legal infrastructure which could be used to enforce human rights.

Mr. Muntarbhorn also describes his country visits to Japan and Mongolia. In the former country, he reports on progress in resolving outstanding issues related to Japanese nationals abducted by agents of the DPRK. Regarding Mongolia, he asks that country to sustain its humanitarian policy in sheltering those who seek refuge.

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