Friday, November 18, 2005

North Korea Expels European Aid Groups

North Korea has ordered non-governmental European aid groups to leave the country after the European Union submitted a U.N. resolution criticizing Pyongyang's human rights record, aid workers said Wednesday.

The order covers at least 11 of the 12 foreign non-governmental organizations in the isolated North, which has struggled for a decade with severe food shortages. The groups affected are running health, sanitation, forestry and other programs.

The NGOs have been asked to wind up their operations by Dec. 31, said Padraig O'Ruairc, the Pyongyang coordinator for Concern, an Irish humanitarian group.

Other groups ordered to leave include Britain's Save the Children, the French groups Handicap International and Premier Urgence and Sweden's PMU Interlife, according to aid workers.

The order comes as the World Food Program also is scrambling to preserve its access to North Korea following a government request for the U.N. agency to wind up its food aid program this year and switch to economic development assistance.

North Korea issued the order last week after the EU submitted a U.N. resolution expressing "serious concern" about reports of torture by the Stalinist dictatorship and its restrictions on religion, travel and other activities. It calls on the North, one of the world's most secretive societies, to cooperate with U.N. human rights investigators.

The EU resolution, which has 40 co-sponsors, expresses "serious concern" at the "continuing reports of systemic, widespread and grave violations of human rights" in North Korea, including torture, public executions, imposing the death penalty for political reasons and the extensive use of forced labor.

[From an article by Joe McDonald, Associated Press]

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