Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Report faults North Korean human rights

An independent report released Monday urged the United Nations and international nuclear negotiators to more strongly confront what was described as North Korea's dismal treatment of its citizens. The report, commissioned by the former leaders of the Czech Republic and Norway and a Nobel peace laureate, said the world has shied away from criticizing the North's human rights because of fear of its nuclear weapons.

"The international community has far too long neglected the human rights situation in North Korea because of the nuclear threat," former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel said in the report.

North Korea rails against any criticism of its human rights record as a U.S.-backed effort to seek the overthrow its government. Harsh criticism of the North's human rights by U.S. lawmakers has often stood in stark contrast with the careful language favored by U.S. diplomats working to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons.

The report recommended that the U.N. Secretary-General appoint a group of experts to report on whether North Korea has violated international human rights law. It also urged the U.N. special rapporteur on North Korean human rights to insist on visiting the North. The report also urged the world to insist on "immediate, safe and unhindered access to all of North Korea for purposes of ensuring food distribution to the most vulnerable groups of the population.

[Excerpt of an International Herald Tribune article]

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