Friday, March 26, 2010

U.N. slams rights abuses in North Korea


Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:09am EDT

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il claps during a mass rally in Hamhung Square to celebrate the completion of the February 8 Vinalon Complex in Hamhung in South Hamgyong Province March 6, 2010 in this picture released by the North's KCNA news agency on March 7, 2010. REUTERS/KCNA

(Reuters) - The U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday slammed widespread abuses in North Korea, among them torture and labor camps for political prisoners, and renewed the mandate of its investigator for the state for a year.

Adopting a resolution submitted by the European Union, the Council also called on Pyongyang to ensure that food aid is distributed on the basis of need to its hungry population.

The reclusive state is already under pressure from world powers to end its year long boycott of nuclear disarmament-for-aid talks.

South Korea, Japan and the United States were among 28 states voting in favor, while North Korea's major ally China and Russia were among five against. Thirteen abstained and one delegation was absent for the vote at the 47-member forum.

The Council deplored "the grave, widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in particular the use of torture and labor camps against political prisoners and repatriated citizens of DPRK." Choe Myong Nam, a North Korean diplomat in Geneva, rejected the resolution as "politically motivated" and "full of distortions and fabrications."

Vitit Muntarbhorn, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said in a report this month that human rights violations were "harrowing and horrific" in the country.

These included public executions, a pervasive spying system, and a distorted food distribution favoring the elite.

The Thai jurist, who has held the independent post since 2004, is due to be replaced in June after the maximum 6 years.

He has never been allowed to visit the country but his reports are based on information from sources including rights groups, U.N. agencies and interviews with North Korean refugees.

The Council called on Pyongyang to ensure "full, rapid and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance that is delivered on the basis of need."

Separately, Josette Sheeran, head of the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP), told a news briefing on Thursday that North Koreans suffered high levels of acute and serious malnutrition.

The agency says 6.2 million out of North Korea's population of 23 million need food aid, but it is only able to reach 1.5 million, mainly young children and women, due to lack of funds.

"It is a challenging environment," Sheeran said.

(Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

No comments: