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U.N. fears rights curbed after Thai army coup

Posted by pakin On May - 22 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

GENEVA – The United Nations human rights office voiced deep concern at the Thai army coup on Thursday and said that martial law and military orders being imposed may infringe on fundamental freedoms.

Basic rights to freedom of opinion, expression and assembly are at risk, as well as guarantees of protection from arbitrary arrest or detention, it said.

“We remind the authorities of Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which strictly limit the application of emergency powers,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.

“We urge the authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the fundamental human rights are respected,” she said.

Reuters

China backs North Korea on human rights

Posted by Nuttapon_S On March - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

China has dismissed a UN report that compared human rights abuses in North Korea to those in Nazi Germany.

A Chinese diplomat said the report lacked credibility, adding to fears that Beijing will block further action. He said some of the recommendations were divorced from reality.

North Korea called the report – which details murder, torture and starvation – a fabrication by hostile forces.

It was drawn up by UN-appointed jurists to document abuses in North Korea.

The head of the international panel of inquiry, Michael Kirby, told the council that great nations had had the courage to tackle the crimes of Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and apartheid South Africa.

He said they must now act on North Korea.

The report accused the state of systematic murder, torture, enslavement and starvation on a scale unparalleled in the modern world.

China had already indicated that it would not back the report.

The Chinese diplomat, Chen Chuandong, has now gone further by questioning the credibility of the report and making it all but certain that Beijing was prepared to veto any resolution at the Security Council.

“The inability of the commission to get support and co-operation from the country concerned made it impossible for the commission to carry out its mandate in an impartial, objective and effective manner,” he said.

The panel was not allowed to enter North Korea or talk to North Korean officials. It based its findings on the testimony of North Korean refugees and defectors, some of whom gave their evidence in public hearings in the South Korean capital, Seoul, and other cities.

China maintains that public censure is not the way to tackle human rights issues in North Korea.

It has recommended what it calls constructive dialogue with the government in Pyongyang.

North Korea has condemned the report as a political attack orchestrated by the United States and its allies with the aim of bringing down the regime.

The European Union and Japan, with US backing, sponsored the proposal to investigate North Korean abuses.

They want it to be submitted to the security council for a referral to the international criminal court or another body able to hold the North Korean leaders to account.

The resolution is expected to meet significant opposition in Geneva, where Cuba, Russia and Vietnam sit on the Human Rights Council as well as China.

Testimony given to the panel from defectors included an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby, children imprisoned from birth and starved, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera.

(Reuters) – North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities, U.N. investigators said on Monday.

The investigators told Kim in a letter they were advising the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to make sure any culprits “including possibly yourself” were held accountable.

The unprecedented public rebuke and warning to a head of state by a U.N. inquiry is likely to further antagonize Kim and complicate efforts to persuade him to rein in his isolated country’s nuclear weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and the West.

North Korea “categorically and totally” rejected the accusations set out in a 372-page report, saying they were based on material faked by hostile forces backed by the United States, the European Union and Japan.

Michael Kirby, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, said he expected his group’s findings to “galvanize action on the part of the international community”.

“These are not the occasional wrongs that can be done by officials everywhere in the world, they are wrongs against humanity, they are wrongs that shock the consciousness of humanity,” Kirby, a former chief justice of Australia, told journalists.

Referral to the Hague-based International Criminal Court is seen as unlikely given China’s probable veto of any such move in the U.N. Security Council, diplomats told Reuters.

“Another possibility is establishment of an ad hoc tribunal like the tribunal on the former Yugoslavia,” Kirby said.

The U.N. investigators also told Kim’s main ally China that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea to face torture or execution, a charge that Chinese officials dismissed.

“STRIKINGLY SIMILAR” TO NAZI ERA

The findings came out of a year-long investigation involving public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.

Defectors included Shin Dong-hyuk, who gave harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp. As a 13-year-old, he informed a prison guard of a plot by his mother and brother to escape and both were executed, according to a book on his life called “Escape from Camp 14”.

Kirby said that the crimes the team had catalogued were reminiscent of those committed by Nazis during World War Two.

“Some of them are strikingly similar,” he told Reuters.

“Testimony was given … in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots, burned and then buried … It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them,” he said.

The number of North Korean officials potentially guilty of the worst crimes, would be “running into the hundreds”, he said.

The independent investigators’ report cited crimes including murder, torture, rape, abductions, starvation and executions.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” it said.

North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the findings. “We will continue to strongly respond to the end to any attempt of regime-change and pressure under the pretext of ‘human rights protection’,” it said.

The two-page North Korean statement, in English, said the report was an “instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system” and defaming the country.

Violations listed in the document and forwarded to Pyongyang for comment several weeks ago, “do not exist in our country”.

“DELIBERATE STARVATION”

The investigators said abuses were mainly perpetrated by officials in structures that ultimately reported to Kim – state security, the Ministry of People’s Security, the army, the judiciary and Workers’ Party of Korea.

“It is open to inference that the officials are, in some instances, acting under your personal control,” Kirby wrote in the three-page letter to Kim published as part of the report.

The team recommended targeted U.N. sanctions against civil officials and military commanders suspected of the worst crimes. It did not reveal any names, but said it had compiled a database of suspects from evidence and testimony.

Pyongyang has used food as “a means of control over the population” and “deliberate starvation” to punish political and ordinary prisoners, according to the team of 12 investigators.

Pervasive state surveillance quashed all dissent, it said.

North Korea’s extermination of political prisoners over the past five decades might amount to genocide, the report added, although the legal definition of genocide normally refers to the killing of large parts of a national, ethnic or religious group.

Kirby warned China’s charge d’affaires in Geneva, Wu Haitao, in a Dec 16 letter that the forced repatriations of North Korean migrants and defectors might amount to “the aiding and abetting (of) crimes against humanity”, the said.

Wu, in a reply also published in the report, said the fact that some of the North Korean migrants regularly managed to get back into China after their return showed that the allegations of torture were not true.

Human Rights Watch said it hoped the report would open the U.N. Security Council’s eyes to the scale of atrocities.

“By focusing only on the nuclear threat in North Korea, the Security Council is overlooking the crimes of North Korean leaders who have overseen a brutal system of gulags, public executions, disappearances, and mass starvation,” said executive director Kenneth Roth.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens) nL6N0LM24B

UN ‘wants North Korean regime crimes punished’

Posted by Rattana_S On February - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(BBC) A year-long UN inquiry into rights abuses in North Korea is expected to urge punishment for systematic violations by the state.

In a report due to be published, a panel of experts mandated by the UN’s Human Rights Council said North Koreans had suffered “unspeakable atrocities”.

The panel heard evidence of torture, enslavement, sexual violence, severe political repression and other crimes.

North Korea has rejected the report’s conclusions.

The findings are expected to include recommending an inquiry by an international court or tribunal.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the report is likely to be one of the most detailed and devastating ever published by the United Nations.

Testimony to the panel has included an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby, children imprisoned from birth and starved, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera.

The full report is expected to contain hundreds of pages of further evidence of a nationwide policy of control through terror, says our correspondent.

North Korea “categorically and totally rejects” the report into its human rights record, it said in a two-page statement sent to Reuters from its diplomatic mission in Geneva.

“The DPRK [North Korea] once again makes it clear that the ‘human rights violations’ mentioned in the so-called ‘report’ do not exist in our country.”

The Associated Press (AP) quoted from a leaked version of the panel’s report, which accuses the regime of taking decisions aimed at maintaining its own rule “in full awareness that such decisions would exacerbate starvation and related deaths amongst much of the population”.

For years, North Korean defectors have detailed harrowing accounts of life under the brutally repressive Kim dynasty.

They describe how the regime keeps tens of thousands of political prisoners in camps, and divides the population up in terms of presumed loyalty to the regime.

Civilians live under a system of neighbourhood surveillance where they are encouraged to denounce each other, according to defectors.

Although this information has been in the public domain for years, the panel’s inquiry is the highest-profile international attempt to investigate the claims. North Korea declined to participate in the panel’s investigation.

Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer who has campaigned to stop crimes against humanity in North Korea, said the findings were both ground-breaking and unremarkable.

“They’re ground-breaking in that it’s the first time that the United Nations as an institution has found that crimes against humanity are being committed against the people of North Korea,” he said.

“Of course, it puts a huge burden on the United Nations to then take the next set of steps.

“But of course it’s also unremarkable in the sense that those of us who have worked on North Korea human rights for many, many years are aware of the sheer weight of evidence coming out of North Korea over decades now… And so the real question now is, what next?”

According to AP, the document will conclude that the testimony and other information it received “merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice”.

However, China would be likely to block any attempt to refer the North to the International Criminal Court.

And an ad-hoc tribunal, like those set up for Rwanda, Sierra Leone or Cambodia, would appear unlikely without co-operation from elements within the country.

The panel will formally present its findings next month, when the Human Rights Council will decide which recommendations to support.

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