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UN rights chief advises relaxing NK sanctions over virus spread

Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights, says North Korea needs UN sanctions relief to contain the coronavirus pandemic. (Yonhap)
Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights, says North Korea needs UN sanctions relief to contain the coronavirus pandemic. (Yonhap)

Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights, said Tuesday that North Korea needs UN sanctions relief because its health care system lacks the resources to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

“Obstacles to the import of vital medical supplies, including over-compliance with sanctions by banks, will create long-lasting harm to vulnerable communities,” she said in reference to the detrimental effects the sanctions could pose to Pyongyang’s anti-virus efforts.

Bachelet said the North Korean public is not responsible for the sanctions, so the restrictions should either be eased or suspended in order to protect their lives and rights, as well as for global public health.

Also on Tuesday, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said it could divert some of its funds to help North Korea contain the virus outbreak. The global fund told Radio Free Asia that it was relocating funds to assist countries hit by the pandemic.

The fund said patients suffering from AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria were more vulnerable to the coronavirus because of their weaker immune systems.

Meanwhile, global Christian charity Open Doors called on the international community to take action to assist North Koreans who were running out of food, medical supplies and other relief goods.

“There is a pressing shortage of doctors and medical supplies in North Korea. People who get sick rely on unsafe medicines sold on the black market,” the global charity said, quoting one of its own missionaries there.

“We were unable to reap much last year because of drought and bad weather, and there were the sanctions. We don’t have enough food, but the military takes what little we have,” one North Korean resident told the charity.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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