More than 30 human rights groups from seven countries urged the United Nations to include North Korea's recent killing of a South Korean official adrift in its waters in its annual human rights resolution on the communist state.
The groups said they made the request in a joint public letter to the UN after learning of the "shocking news" that North Korea killed the South Korean official and burned his body last month "in accordance with Pyongyang's shoot-to-kill order to prevent coronavirus."
"We recently received the shocking news that North Korean troops held and executed a South Korean government official who had drifted into North Korean waters, and that his remains were burned at sea. ... Reportedly, all this was in accordance with Pyongyang's shoot-to-kill order to prevent coronavirus from entering the country," they said in the letter.
"In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, we must take increased devotion to the cause of universal human rights as they come under unprecedented challenges as governments resort to draconian measures often under the pretext of combating the pandemic," they noted.
They called for the UN to include a toughened stance on such inhumane treatment of people as the killing of the South Korean official under the name of protecting itself from the pandemic in its annual human rights resolution on North Korea to be adopted this year.
"Respect and ensure the right to life, liberty and security of person, the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other fundamental rights and freedoms of North Korean and foreign citizens at all time in fighting the pandemic," they said.
South Korea earlier claimed that North Korea shot and killed the 47-year-old official and burned his remains. North Korea admitted to the shooting but said it was in line with their maritime engagement rules and refuted that they set his body ablaze, instead claiming it was his belongings.
North Korea has not responded to Seoul's repeated calls for a joint investigation into the deadly incident. (Yonhap)