(AFP) – Oct 23, 2008
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The UN pointman on North Korean human rights on Thursday urged Pyongyang to stop punishing asylum-seekers returned from abroad and also to end public executions.
"Over the past year, we have had reports of more severe sanctions against returnees," Vitit Muntarbhorn told reporters.
He pleaded with North Korean authorities to show leniency, noting that "it does not take very much for the DPRK (North Korea) not to punish returnees."
Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor appointed in 2004 as UN special rapporteur on alleged human rights abuses in the Stalinist state, earlier Thursday presented a report to a UN General Assembly panel in which he outlined a series of steps Pyongyang should take to improve its human right record.
These include the following short-term recommendations:
An end to public executions and other abuses against the security of the person.
An end to punishment of asylum-seekers returned from abroad.
Effective provision of and access to food and other basic necessities for North Koreans as well constructive cooperation with UN agencies and other humanitarian actors.
Transparent cooperation in accounting for foreigners, particularly Japanese, kidnapped by North Korean agents.
An invitation for Muntarbhorn to enter North Korea to assess its human rights situation and advise on needed improvements.
In the long term, the rapporteur also called for modernizing North Korea's legal system, reforming its prisons, promoting the rule of law and building food security through sustainable farm development with broad-based participation.
Muntarbhorn also decried severe constraints on civil and political rights in North Korea, citing reports of "a clampdown on cellphone and long-distance telephone calls to prevent people from reporting on food shortages."
Despite official claims that freedom of religion exists, "It is reported that security personnel are ever-present among religious congregations to report on their activities and that the authorities use various persons disguised as religious personnel to monitor religious practices," he noted.
Last March, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning "systematic, widespread and grave violations" of human rights in North Korea.
It urged Pyongyang to "respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms" and to ensure safe and unhindered access to aid.
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