DPR Korea Ban sounds alarm on lack of progress in human rights

7 October 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has spoken out against the lack of “tangible progress” made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in addressing serious human rights concerns, with reports from the nation pointing to such actions as torture, public executions and forced labour. DPRK authorities have “not recognized the resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on the situation of human rights in the country,” Mr. Ban said in a report to the General Assembly made public today.The Government has yet to engage in a substantive dialogue on the rights situation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Further, the DPRK has not cooperated or given access to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the nation.“Reports emanating from the country continue to indicate trends of arbitrary arrests, absence of due process and the rule of law, torture, inhumane conditions of detention, public execution, ill-treatment of refugees or asylum-seekers repatriated from abroad, and forced labour,” the Secretary-General wrote.“In addition, reports also indicate that the population is being denied the freedoms of thought, religion, opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, movement and access to information.”Calling on the Government to protect fundamental rights and freedoms, he urged authorities to enact domestic legal reforms to comply with international standards.Mr. Ban spotlighted the dire food shortages in the DPRK, and their impact on the economic, social and cultural rights of the population.The UN World Food Programme (WFP) cautioned in July that millions faced dangerous hunger levels, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of a 1.7 million-ton cereal deficit.But positive steps have been taken, the Secretary-General noted, such as the Government’s agreement to boost food assistance and expand the operations of UN agencies, including WFP and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).He stressed the need for authorities to increase budget allocations for food and highlighted the importance of preventing discrimination in distributing food and health services.“The Secretary-General is encouraged by the Government’s recognition of the urgency of the problem and its desire to address the issue of the people’s sustainable access to food, and he welcomes the Government’s extension of cooperation to the United Nations agencies and encourages the international community to lend its full support to efforts to address this issue,” the report said.Additionally, Mr. Ban welcomed progress made under the six-party talks, also involving China, Russia, the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea, calling “upon all regional and international actors to facilitate the creation of an environment conducive to generating greater engagement between the Government of the [DPRK] and the international community.”Late last month, DPRK authorities informed the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it planned to restart nuclear activities at its reprocessing plant in Yongbyon, shut down last year.They also said they are terminating access by IAEA inspectors to the facilities, which the agency verified had been taken off line last summer.