Friday, October 24, 2008

North Korea's human rights and food crisis

North Korea is using public executions to intimidate its citizens and has imposed restrictions on long distance calls to block the spread of news about rising food shortages, the U.N. investigator on human rights in the reclusive nation said.

Vitit Muntarbhorn told the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee that North Korea has also imposed more severe sanctions on people seeking to leave the country and those forcibly returned, and still detains "very large numbers" of people in camps.

"Particularly disconcerting is the use of public executions to intimidate the public," he said. "This is despite various law reforms in 2004 and 2005, which claim to have improved the criminal law framework and related sanctions."

He cited the "great disparity" in the access to food by the country's elite and the rest of the population, nonexistent political participation, rigid control over the media and those professing religious beliefs, and the persecution of dissidents.
Muntarbhorn also said there is a "very, very serious problem this year with food."

His remarks coincided with a warning from the head of the U.N. food agency in North Korea that millions face a food crisis. Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the World Food Program's country director, said some areas in the northeast are facing "a humanitarian emergency" and about 2.7 million people on the west coast will also run out of food in October.


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