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North Korea Imperils Its Own People

Pyongyang city, North Korea.
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington DC (UPI) Oct 31, 2006
The reclusive communist regime of North Korea is believed to have test fired an underground nuclear device a few weeks ago, worrying many of the countries in its immediate vicinity that a nuclear arms race might ensue. But a new report accusing Pyongyang of imperiling its own people has led a human rights group to request action be taken by the United Nations Security Council.

A highly detailed report was prepared by the law firm DLA Piper US in cooperation with the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. The report was commissioned by Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, Kjell Magne Bondevik, former prime minister of Norway, and Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate. It was based on a careful review of available information.

The group cites a new U.N. doctrine which states that each country has "a responsibility to protect" its own citizens from the most severe human rights abuses. The report points to "egregious violations of rights by North Korea" and calls for immediate action by the U.N. Security Council.

The authors of the report fear that possible U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear test "may inadvertently worsen the abysmal human rights situation."

"Failure to Protect: A Call for the U.N. Security Council to Act in North Korea" affirms that "the Security Council has independent justification for intervening in North Korea either because of the government's failure in its responsibility to protect or because North Korea is a nontraditional threat to the peace."

Failure to Protect focuses primarily on the active involvement of the government in crimes against humanity through: -- Food Policy and Famine: North Korea allowed as many as 1 million of its citizens to die of starvation. "Hunger and starvation remain a persistent problem, with over 37 percent of children chronically malnourished," says the report. North Korea still denies the World Food Program access to 42 of 203 counties in the country. -- Treatment of Political Prisoners: Some 200,000 people are imprisoned in North Korean prison camps without due process of law and in near-starvation conditions. More than 400,000 are estimated to have died in the prison system over 30 years. That amounts to more than 36 people executed every day over the last three decades.

The report also describes North Korea's gross misallocations of resources, diverting funds away from essential services to step up production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapon systems, presenting this information as a context for the way North Korea misallocates its resources.

"For more than a decade, human rights concerns have been relegated to a second-class status for fear of driving North Korea from the nuclear talks," said Jared Genser, a Washington-based attorney with DLA Piper. "Now that its government has gone ahead with a nuclear test anyway, it is time to have a parallel-track strategy for alleviating the suffering of the North Korea people through Security Council action."

"The nuclear threat posed by the North Korean government has raised concerns all over the world," added Debra Liang-Fenton, executive director of the U.S. Committee. "But no less alarming is the active involvement of the North Korean government in committing crimes against humanity. Now, with sanctions, the people may inadvertently suffer more."

The U.N. defines "nontraditional threats to peace" as non-military threats with serious cross-border ramifications, the report said. North Korea's blatant violations of human rights have added a number of nontraditional threats, contributing to creating a refugee crisis of humongous proportions, with as many as 400,000 North Korean fleeing the country in recent years.

Furthermore, the North Korean government is believed to partake in criminal enterprises, such as drug production and trafficking and money counterfeiting and laundering, according to the report.

"Security Council intervention is a necessary international and multilateral vehicle to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people," the report concluded.

"The situation in North Korea is one of the most egregious human rights and humanitarian disasters in the world today," said Havel, Bondevik, and Wiesel in a joint statement. "Yet sadly, because North Korea is also one of the most closed societies on Earth, information about the situation there has only trickled out over time."

The report recommends the U.N. Security Council adopt a non-punitive resolution urging the North Korean government to allow open access for international humanitarian organizations to feed its people, calling for the release of political prisoners, as well as insisting that the government allow the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea to visit the country.

But coming at a time when a South Korean diplomat -- Ban Ki Moon -- has just been named to replace Kofi Annan as secretary-general of the world body that is unlikely to be high on Ban's agenda.

Source: United Press International

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Hunger Driving North Korea Refugees, World Must Open Doors
Seoul (AFP) Oct 26, 2006
Hunger is driving increasing numbers of North Koreans to risk their lives fleeing over the border in a humanitarian tragedy overshadowed by the nuclear crisis, a leading think-tank said Thursday. In a report, the International Crisis Group urged China to halt its policy of repatriating the refugees back to face persecution and risk of execution, and called on the outside world to open its doors too.

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