SEOUL (9 September 2015) – This is my first visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) since the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights established an office in Seoul to work on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
I thank the ROK Government for its invitation, its support during my visit and its excellent collaboration with my mandate over the years. I also thank all the officials and civil society actors for our fruitful meetings as well as the OHCHR office in Seoul for its support. During my visit, I met with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Unification as well as with representatives of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the Korea Institute for National Unification, non-governmental organizations, defectors and the diplomatic community.
As we know, numerous efforts are ongoing, both here in Seoul and around the world, to follow up on the findings and recommendations of the report* prepared by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK. The report documented wide-ranging and gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity that continue to be committed as we speak. It is now time to consider the concrete measures that should be taken to ensure accountability for those crimes and to set up a broader process of transitional justice.
My visit comes at a time when the relationship between the two Koreas is taking a new turn. Based on the agreement reached on 25 August, representatives of both countries met and discussed the way forward to resume the reunion of separated families. This is a promising development that could further encourage the intra-Korean dialogue and people-to-people contacts. I also noted the increasing references to and the public discussions on a possible unification in the near future that are taking place in the ROK.
This discussion on unification makes the work on accountability even more urgent. While unification is paramount, accountability measures for crimes against humanity need to be laid down firmly and robustly by the international community. At the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that both unification and accountability share a common goal – the improvement of the human rights situation on the Korean peninsula.
I also had a very fruitful discussion with the team of the newly established OHCHR office in Seoul. The office was mandated by the Human Rights Council as a follow up to the Commission of Inquiry. It works to strengthen the monitoring and documentation of the human rights situation in the DPRK, and engages in capacity building, technical assistance and advocacy activities with a wide range of partners. I look forward to our close collaboration.
During this visit, my attention was repeatedly drawn to the issue of the DPRK nationals who are sent abroad to work and reportedly subjected to forced labour by their Government. I was also briefed on the situation of women in the country and alleged abductions of Korean and other nationals, including detentions of four recent cases of Korean citizens, by the DPRK. While some of these issues will be included in my report to the General Assembly in October, they require further investigations to identify the people responsible for these crimes.
Here are some of my preliminary observations. I will again engage in further discussions during my next visit to the ROK late November. I also intend to travel to Japan on a similar assessment mission early next year, and will also elaborate on these points in my report to the Human Rights Council in March 2016.
I once again thank all the people who have taken the time to meet me during this visit, and look forward to further collaboration to improve the human rights situation in the two Koreas.
* Read the commission of inquiry’s report: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/coidprk/pages/commissioninquiryonhrindprk.aspx
Mr. Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in August 2010 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity. He has served in a three-member UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and chaired the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. In March 2013, the Human Rights Council designated Special Rapporteur Darusman to serve simultaneously on a three-member Commission of Inquiry to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave reports of violations of human rights in DPRK. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/KP/Pages/SRDPRKorea.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page – DPRK: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KPIndex.aspx
OHCHR(Seoul) page: http://seoul.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/HOME.aspx
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