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Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the end of his visit to Japan from 19 to 23 January 2015

Japanese version

TOKYO (23 January 2015) – I am very pleased to be back in Japan to undertake an official visit in my capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). I thank the Japanese Government for its excellent collaboration with my mandate as always, and generally all those who expressed support throughout the visit.

Allow me first to express my personal concern for the two Japanese nationals who are currently held hostage by a group of violent extremists in the Middle East. Similarly I express my deepest sympathy to their relatives for their anguish in going through this testing period.

During my visit, I met with the Minister for the Abduction Issue; the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs; the Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Policy; the Director of Cabinet Intelligence; the Director-General of the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Department of the National Police Agency; the Director of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, and the Deputy Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Head of Office for the Assistance of the Abductees and Families; and the Head of the Association of Members of Parliament dealing with abductions. I also met with members of the Association of Families of Abductees, and other representatives of civil society, as well as members of the diplomatic community.

This new visit took place in the context of recent major developments at the UN General Assembly and Security Council on the situation in the DPRK, with significantly increased scrutiny by the international community of the actions of the DPRK Government. In December 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution on the situation of human rights in the DPRK. The resolution, which was adopted with an overwhelming majority, paved the way for consideration of the situation in the DPRK by the Security Council, including a possible referral of this situation to the International Criminal Court. In late December, the Security Council met to discuss such situation, with considerable focus on the issue of abductions. While no specific outcome was intended at this stage, I welcome the fact that the situation in the DPRK is now firmly placed on the Council’s agenda. This is a promising development which was made possible thanks to the sustained efforts of Japan and other Member States over the years to make the international community aware of the grave human rights violations committed by the Government of the DPRK.

The purpose of the visit was to be apprised on the latest developments in relation to the dialogue between the Governments of Japan and the DPRK on the issue of abduction of Japanese nationals. I welcome this dialogue, but regret that is has been stalled for several months. While acknowledging that bilateral efforts must be sustained to settle the matter, it is fundamental to also generate broad support from the international community to address this issue robustly, based on a comprehensive strategy to resolve the problem of State-sponsored international abductions and enforced disappearances committed by the Government of the DPRK. At the request of the Human Rights Council, I am in the process of preparing such a strategy whose main elements will be presented during the Council’s forthcoming session in March 2015. The cooperation of all stakeholders in the implementation of this strategy will be paramount.

In the past period, our awareness of the scale of abductions of Japanese nationals has gone beyond the original figure of 12 remaining abductees to be returned to Japan. I was informed that the national police agency is currently looking into 881 possible DPRK-related abduction cases over the years. This is clearly a source of deep and wide concern within the Japanese society, but also should be for the international community as a whole, which must tackle this issue with even more resolve.

I am also pleased that all interlocutors with whom I met expressed their readiness to collaborate with the field-based structure soon to be established by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This field-based structure will be tasked by the Human Rights Council with following up the work of the commission of inquiry on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, which found that grave human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity have been committed by the DPRK, including abductions and enforced disappearances. It is crucial that all stakeholders support the future work of this office.  

On a related note, I welcome the dedicated work of Japanese NGOs on the abduction issue and strongly encourage them to actively join forces in a common effort, both domestically and internationally, to seek truth and justice and decisively bring closure to this tragedy. Civil society organizations are always critical players that governments should consistently endeavour to involve in confronting human rights challenges.

Finally, I want to pay my deepest respect to the families of the abductees. I was once again greatly impressed and moved by their dignified composure and unfailing courage through the agonizing times they have been going through for several decades. They constantly serve as a tremendous source of inspiration and motivation for all of us to continue the struggle to seek the truth and bring back their loved ones.

I once again thank all whom who have taken time to meet with me during my visit, and look forward to further collaboration in pursuit of our cause.

Mr. Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in August 2010 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity. He has served in a three-member UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and chaired the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. In March 2013, the Human Rights Council designated Special Rapporteur Darusman to serve simultaneously on a three-member Commission of Inquiry to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave reports of violations of human rights in DPRK.

Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/KP/Pages/SRDPRKorea.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – DPRK: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KPIndex.aspx

For additional information and media requests, please contact Guillaume Pfeifflé (+41 79 752 0483 / gpfeiffle@ohchr.org).

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