UN expert says North Korea's rights abysmal despite summits
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations special investigator on human rights in North Korea, holds up a lock given to him by North Koreans who escaped from the country, during a press conference, Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018, at U.N. headquarters in New York. Quintana said the escapees told him: âYou have the key to open the lock,â and that he was âvery concernedâ that human rights were not mentioned in the statements after the summits between the leaders of North Korea and South Korea or between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump. (Edith M. Lederer/Associated Press) October 23 at 5:53 PM
UNITED NATIONS â" North Korean leader Kim Jong Unâs summits with the presidents of South K orea and the United States have not changed his countryâs abysmal human rights record, the U.N. independent investigator on human rights in the isolated Asian nation said Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference, Tomas Ojea Quintana said he is âvery concernedâ that statements following Kimâs meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump made no mention of human rights in North Korea.
He pointed to reports of âsystematic, widespread abusesâ of human rights and a U.N. commission of inquiryâs findings in 2014 that possible crimes against humanity have been committed in North Korea.
âThe human rights situation at the moment, at the moment, has not changed,â Quintana said.
Quintana said dealing with North Koreaâs nuclear arsenal is extremely important for humanity, and he strongly supported rapprochement between the two Koreas and talks with the U.S. that have decreased tensions and improved prospects for pe ace.
But he stressed that North Koreaâs human rights record must not be ignored.
Quintana recalled that in his previous job as U.N. investigator in Myanmar, he raised alarm about âcrimes against humanityâ being committed by the military during that countryâs political transition in 2012 but his concerns were put aside.
âAnd now we see the consequences,â he said, alluding to findings of military abuses against Myanmarâs Rohingya Muslim minority.
He said he isnât saying the situation in North Korea is the same, but âwe shouldnât undermine the principle of human rights because sooner or later it will come back.â
âAs the process of rapprochement and talks are moving so fast, we the human rights people â" we also need to move fast and bring proposals, different proposals,â Quintana said.
He said one of his proposals is to ask the new U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, to initiate âa process of engagementâ w ith North Korea.
He also urged North Korea âto show commitment to the human rights agendaâ and allow him to visit the country and talks to its leaders.
Quintana, a human rights lawyer from Argentina appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, was in New York to present his latest findings to the U.N. General Assemblyâs human rights committee.
He said he proposed to North Korean officials in Geneva last March that the government should start releasing political prisoners as a signal of commitment to human rights.
âWe saw in the media there was an amnesty by the leadership and some prisoners were released,â Quintana said. âThat was very important news.â
But Quintana added that when he wrote to North Korea seeking details, he got no response.
He said in response to a question that the Trump administration has told him it supports his work and backs a General Assembly resolution condemning North Koreaâs human rights situa tion.
On Monday, North Koreaâs official KCNA news agency accused âsome dishonest forces including Japanâ of âworking hard to cook upâ a politicized resolution on human rights. It called the annual resolution the result of a âconspiratorial and criminal scenario of the hostile forces to defameâ North Korea.
KCNA said Western countries should not be held up as âthe human rights standard of the world,â saying that âmisanthropy and abnormal way of life are rampantâ in the West.
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