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UN set to address NK human rights issues

UN (AP-Yonhap)
UN (AP-Yonhap)
The United Nations will discuss human rights conditions in North Korea at the coming General Assembly scheduled to open Sept. 15, the Secretariat said.

It added that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will report on the latest developments while Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the North, will make recommendations at the UN Third Committee dealing with human rights.

The committee has usually looked at human rights abuses in the North in October, passed resolutions in November and referred the matter to the plenary session at the General Assembly.

The committee for the first time in 2014 called for the UN Security Council to consider referring the North to the International Criminal Court for Pyongyang’s alleged crimes against humanity. The tribunal prosecutes individuals for crimes like genocide.

Whether the Security Council will go over the North’s human rights issue in December also remains to be seen, as the council has skipped the chance for two years, with the 2019 talks not taking place on the objection of the US.

Experts have cautiously predicted that the US may not refuse a meeting this time.

“I would suspect that under either scenario -- a second Trump presidential mandate, or a Biden presidency -- I think that human rights will, once again, rank prominently,” Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, told Voice of America, referring to the US election.

Meanwhile, rights groups heaped criticism on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying he was disinterested in looking after his people, who have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and floods due to recent heavy rains, in addition to the chronic food shortages.

They called a North Korean congress set for January next year “almost propaganda” and not “real policy discussion.” Kim vowed to set a new economic initiative to better lives there.

“North Korea is a totalitarian country. It doesn’t need a Party Congress to change. Kim Jong-un orders there needs to be reforms,” John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, told Radio Free Asia.

Sifton said that Kim instead should ask the UN and other aid groups for food and medical supplies, adding genuine political and economic reforms would resolve the crisis there.

By Choi Si-young (