North Korea human rights

May 7, 2018

 

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President
United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

 

 

Dear President Trump:

 

During your State of the Union (“SOTU”) Address, the whole world watched as you elevated the role that human rights should play with respect to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“DPRK”). We were heartened to see that you highlighted stories from the North Korean community, showcasing how each of their stories “is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom”. We could not agree more. Now, as the United States discusses a proposed summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, we urge you to include human rights issues in all discussions with the DPRK including in the summit agenda.

 

We strongly believe that the United States and others in the international community should not hold back on condemning human rights abuses in an effort to support diplomatic dialogues. The US, in close collaboration with rest of the international community, should bring diplomatic engagement and pressure on behalf of the people of the DPRK with regards to human rights issues. This would be consistent with both the imperative to protect and promote human rights, and the United States’ efforts to protect the Korean peninsula from the effects of nuclear weapons.

 

As you described during the SOTU Address, any discussion about the nuclear threat North Korea poses cannot be separated from how the DPRK treats its own people. The United Nations Security Council has recognized in several recent debates and resolutions that human rights abuses in the DPRK are an important element of any discussion on the DPRK’s nuclear weapons as the North Korean government continues to prioritize nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles over the basic needs of its own people In December 2017, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, said that “the international security crisis regarding the DPRK’s military actions is inseparable from concerns about the human rights situation of ordinary people in the country.” On March 12, 2018, at the UN Human Rights Council, Tomás Ojea-Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in DPRK, urged UN member states that “any advancement on the security dialogue should be accompanied by a parallel expansion of human rights dialogue.” Any resolution of security issues on the Korean peninsula should require addressing the DPRK’s repressive human rights record and pressing the North Korean government to commit to fundamental and wide-ranging reforms.

 

During 2017, there were some limited but important steps taken by the DPRK to re-engage with UN human rights mechanisms, creating a window of opportunity. According to Special Rapporteur Ojea-Quintana “the momentum is there for the negotiations to use and to bring the human rights issues into the discussion.” Mr. President — we recommend that you use that opportunity, and urge the DPRK to improve its human rights record.

 

We ask that you include the following issues in the agenda of all meetings with the DPRK, including your summit with Kim Jong Un:

  1. Acting on United Nations Human Rights Recommendations

The UN Commission of Inquiry on DPRK found systematic and widespread human rights violations in North Korea, in many instances constituting crimes against humanity, including:

  • The existence of a prison camp system where individuals deemed political enemies of the state, sometimes along with their entire families, are held indefinitely;
  • Torture, forced labor, starvation and other ill-treatment, as well as executions used routinely in these camps and other penal facilities;
  • For the vast majority of North Koreans, the denial of universally recognized human rights, including police interfering with religious activities, and to freedom of movement, expression, and association.
  • The deliberate and systematic closing off of North Koreans from contact with the rest of the world by preventing them from traveling, unsupervised communications, and denying them access to outside information.

 

We recommend that you urge the DPRK to immediately implement the following steps by:

  • Opening all government detention facilities, reeducation and forced labor camps, and prisons to visits by international observers, and taking steps to release any detainees held for activities that should not, under international law, be criminalized, such as exercising their rights to freedom of speech and religion and belief, or attempting to leave or leaving the country without permission.
  • Engaging with and responding to recommendations and opinions from the UN Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry on the situation of human rights in the DPRK and engaging with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, including facilitating a country visit by him and other relevant UN special mechanisms.
  • Continuing to engage with UN human rights mechanisms, including the upcoming Universal Periodic Review and under the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; accepting UN recommendations and implementing changes on the ground; and signing and ratifying key human rights treaties, including International Labour Organization conventions and the Convention against Torture.

 

  1. Appoint a Special Envoy for DPRK Human Rights Issues

We urge you to appoint a Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Issues. By elevating the issue to a Special Envoy role, the position would coordinate a whole-of-government US strategy on bringing international pressure to bear on Pyongyang for improvements in human rights both at the summit and in conjunction with the United States’ allies and partners. That responsibility should also include the following:

  • To establish a regular US-North Korea human rights dialogue and ensure that it is principled, follows clear benchmarks, and is accountable. Such meetings should be followed by reports to Congress and public briefings about their content and agreements on next steps, which should include follow-up meetings at the highest levels of each government.
  • Advocate further information and personal exchanges and promote the rights to freedom of expression, information and movement.

 

  1. Separated Families and Abductions

An estimated one million Koreans have been separated or forcibly removed from their families through displacement during the war, enforced disappearances and abductions, or following escape from the DPRK. The Japanese government has also identified several Japanese citizens who were abducted by the North Korean government and has stated that this remains the most important question for Japan during the US-North Korea summit. Currently, there are over 30,000 North Koreans in South Korea, Japan, and other countries with no legal way to communicate with family members in North Korea.

 

We recommend that you urge the DPRK:

  • Press North Korea to respect the right of every person to leave any country, including his/her own, and to return to her/his country, including by granting exit visas to all persons who hold or have held South Korean or other foreign nationality and their family members who wish to leave North Korea for South Korea or other countries.
  • Urge the DPRK to engage constructively on the issue of abductions and to commit seriously to investigate and respond to the allegations made against it.

 

  1. Humanitarian Assistance

According to the UN World Food Program (“WFP”), around 70 percent of the population in the DPRK are food insecure. This affects children, and pregnant and nursing women the hardest. One in three children under five years of age, and almost half of the children between 12 and 23 months, were anemic. In October 2017, WFP said it needed US$25.5 million for the following six months to aid North Korean women and children.

 

Humanitarian aid is an international responsibility and is necessary to protect human life and rights. At the same time, oversight is crucial to ensure that aid goes to those who need it most and is not diverted to the DPRK military or others, regardless of whether it is provided directly by the United States, the United Nations, or through private institutions.

 

We recommend that you

  • Provide necessary humanitarian aid and urge the DPRK government to accept international or domestic humanitarian aid, with proper monitoring consistent with international standards of transparency and accountability. These standards include access throughout the country to determine needs and the ability to visit places where food and other aid is delivered.

 

Thank you for your consideration and we would be happy to discuss these issues further with you or your staff. If you would like to arrange a meeting please contact Francisco Bencosme, Amnesty International’s Asia Advocacy Manager at FBencosme@aiusa.org.

 

Sincerely,

 

Amnesty International USA
ALTSEAN-Burma
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l (Brussels)
Korea Future Initiative
Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
Liberty in North Korea
Midwest Alliance for North Korean Refugees
One Free Korea
People for Successful COrean Reunification
The Center for Victims of Torture
World Without Genocide

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

 

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/




ROMANIA: UK to grant controversial extradition to Romania

By Lea Perekrests

 

HRWF (24.04.2018) 38-year old, London resident, Alexander Adamescu, may face extradition to Romania in the coming weeks despite a series of corrupt trials and the death of his father in Romanian prison.

 

Alexander Adamescu’s name first became of interest to Romania’s National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) in June 2016 following the imprisonment of his father, Dan Adamescu on charges of bribery and corruption.

 

The charges against Alexander Adamescu arose shortly after the state was slapped with a GBP 200 million arbitration claim for the purposeful destruction of a group of companies controlled by Dan Adamescu.

 

From the initial charges against Alexander Adamescu, the hearings and investigations have been riddled with corruption.

 

For example, in one hearing, Alexander Adamescu was summoned only at the door of the court, thirty minutes prior to the hearing. Within thirty minutes after the trial, the judge had apparently read 37 arch level files of prosecution materials, had deliberated on the arguments of both sides, taken a decision, admitted an arrest warrant, and had submitted his decision on the court electronic system.

 

Unfortunately, such circumstances are not rare in Romania; concerns regarding fair trials and prison conditions are constants across the country. According to EAW laws, extraditions should not be conducted when human rights abuses are disputable in the receiving country.

 

Human Rights in Romania – Abysmal prisons and court-room corruption

 

The increasingly interconnectedness of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA), the national intelligence service (SRI), and judges, magistrates, and other judicial authorities across the country are of high concern.

 

The wide use of phone-tapping, corruption, influence of judges, and faking evidence have all come to light as common practice within these institutions, which in turn are clear violations of human rights.

 

These issues are well-known, as the debate in Romania is highly public. The Chief Prosecutor of the DNA is currently being investigated for corruption, and the Secretary General of the SRI is facing calls to resign after the media exposed that he had been contacting judges via Facebook about ongoing trials.

 

In such a context, is it implausible to assume that those who face charges in Romania will receive a fair trial.

 

Furthermore, Romania’s record of extended and unjustified pre-trial detention, paired with overcrowded prisons and facilities which do not meet international standards, contributes to concern.

 

In 2017, Romania remained a prolific human rights abuser with the most cases brought before the ECtHR of any EU country, and of the 47 nations of the Council of Europe – Romania fell just behind Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

 

The majority of these cases involved the prohibition of torture or inhuman treatment, a lack of effective investigation, and the right to a fair trial.

 

As of 1 January 2018, Romania even surpassed Russia and Turkey in the number of pending applications allocated to the judicial formation.

 


Image source: ‘Violations by Article and by State 2017’. European Court of Human Rights. 2018.
http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Stats_violation_2017_ENG.pdf.

 

 

Given this record, the UK courts would be at contention with EAW laws.

 

Even more worrying is that if Alexander Adamescu is extradited, he will face grave human rights violations during subsequent trials, and while in prison.

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

 

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/  




NORTH KOREA: Over 1,000 North Korean workers slated for dispatch to China

By Ha Yoon Ah

 

Daily NK (12.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2FaR3MK – Over 1,000 North Korean laborers are preparing to be dispatched to work assignments in Dandong, China, a source in the area informed Daily NK on Wednesday. This follows sightings earlier this month of over 400 North Korean workers in the Chinese city of Helong to the east, together suggesting the two countries may be cooperating to restart joint business ventures in China.

 

“There are already about 100 North Koreans working at one clothing factory in Dandong, and they are expecting 1,000 more after a recent conversation with a manager from the North Korean side,” the source said on April 11.

 

The Chinese manager in the deal told the source that it is a popular opportunity among North Korean factory workers as they see it as a good chance to improve their skills, despite their expectations of low pay and long hours. “People around here are anticipating an influx of more North Korean workers in the near future,” the source remarked.

 

A separate source in China confirmed the development, saying, “It is true that over a thousand North Korean workers are preparing for the assignment. The Chinese brokers who have engineered the deal for the jobs are working overtime right now.”

 

He added that the workers are still receiving permits from North Korean authorities to cross into China, as per standard guidelines, though these permits only technically allow up to 30 days’ stay abroad.

 

“[The Chinese companies] are trying to recruit more North Korean workers now as they feel sanctions may possibly be lifted and that the dangers have subsided. But they will just send them back in case they are not [lifted],” he said.

 

Following these developments, some are speculating that Kim Jong Un may have come to an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the matter during their meeting in Beijing last month.

 

Recent friction between China and the US over a brewing trade war may also be contributing to a sense of optimism among those affected in the region.

 

“We (Chinese people) are also hurting from sanctions, and now it seems like we are in a trade war with the US,” an additional source in China said.

 

“Knowing this, it is possible that authorities, despite sanctions, are turning a blind eye to the arrival of the North Korean workers.”

 

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

 

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/  




ROMANIA: Kovesi Stays, so what next from #Romania’s tainted corruption fight?

President Iohannis’ decision to retain Laura Kovesi as head of Romania’s DNA overlooks the myriad of abuses her department is accused of.

 

By Willy Fautre

EU Reporter (18.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2qKHBe2 – This week, Romania’s President Iohannis announced his decision to retain the powerful Laura Kovesi as Chief Prosecutor at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA). This follows months of political wrangling, debate and scrutiny of the current state of the country’s fight against corruption. Earlier this year, it seemed that Romania’s controversial, and at times disturbing, anti-corruption effort was finally going to be brought back under control. However, it is now clear that President Iohannis had other ideas.

A myriad of accusations has been levelled against Kovesi and the DNA. These include, but are not limited to, evidence tampering, witness coercion and falsifying statements. In February this year, tapes were published in which two DNA prosecutors are recorded conspiring to falsify charges and fake evidence. They were caught red-handed. It seemed that the poisonous activities of such an organisation had finally been laid bare and that reform was forthcoming. Sadly, this hasn’t proved to be the case.

Last month my organisation, Human Rights Without Frontiers, published a report cataloguing the string of human rights abuses and rule of law violations committed under the guise of Romania’s anti-corruption fight. We found that of the 47-member nations of the Council of Europe, Romania was the 3rd worst offender with regards to human rights abuses. On top of this, the 69 cases brought against it to the European Court of Human Rights is the highest number of any EU member state.

The report reflects mounting concern that Romanian politicians, businessmen and civilians are victims of unfair trails, unwarranted detention periods and spurious convictions. Reports that defendants are being denied the right to submit evidence and enlist witnesses should trouble all of us who believe in the rule of law and the primary importance of a legitimate criminal justice system. Even more sinister and alarming is the alleged level of deep involvement of the security services, echoing a darker chapter from Romania’s past.

The Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) is the successor to the much-feared, communist-era Securitate. Sadly, their well-documented involvement in anti-corruption cases bears all the hallmarks of their omnipotent predecessors. Our report highlighted how 1,000 of Romania’s nearly 7,000 judges were ‘trained’ by the SRI in a programme using European funds. This reflects SRI General Dumitru Dumbrava’s own characterisation of the judicial system as a ‘tactical field’, heavily suggesting direct interference with judges, prosecutors and the entire process of criminal justice.

Romania’s troubles extend further than this however. Prison conditions have been a growing source of concern both within and outside the country for many years. We discovered allegations of physical abuse, torture and appalling overcrowding. These are the conditions facing those with potentially unsafe convictions. Often, those accused spend months in such conditions before seeing the inside of a courtroom, tantamount to being guilty until proven innocent. This directly contravenes the UN Convention Against Torture, to which Romania is a signatory. It could prove grounds for invoking Article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union, which allows for the suspending of certain member state rights if they are found in violation.

In nations with more established systems of criminal justice, even one of the above allegations would usually be enough to bring down those culpable. Not Romania it seems. Anti-corruption fights should be – to use a common phrase – ‘whiter than white’, but theirs lurks deep in the shadows. The goal should be simple, to uncover corruption and punish it. The goal in Romania’s case however appears to be to ‘inflate the numbers whatever the cost’. With a scarcely believable 50% increase in indictments over the past 5 years, it seems to be an exercise in finding people guilty, rather than finding guilty people.

Despite all this well-documented evidence, Laura Kovesi remains in power, with her position secured by Presidential Decree. A timely opportunity to face up to the disturbing allegations surrounding Romania’s anti-corruption fight has been missed. The question is: what happens next? Will we ever see the reforms required for a truly just anti-corruption fight – free from allegations of evidence tampering and witness coercion? One can only hope so, but this week’s event has once again pushed that possibility further away.

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

 

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/  




VIETNAM: Amid Crackdown on Dissent, Six Vietnamese Human Rights Activists Are Dealt Long Prison Sentences

Global Voices (09.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2JCeMcu – This article by Kathy Triệu is from Loa, a news website and podcast of Viet Tan that broadcasts stories about Vietnam. It is republished by Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

 

Six activists were sentenced to between seven and 15 years in prison on charges of subversion after a one-day trial in Hanoi. These are the harshest punishments to be issued by Vietnam’s one-party state in years.

 

Human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài, 48, received the longest sentence of 15 years in prison and five years of house arrest.

 

According to attorney Luân Lê, who represented some of the defendants, Nguyễn Văn Đài said while inside the heavily secured courtroom that “leniency for political dissidents today is really an act of leniency for yourself in the future.”

 

Trương Minh Đức shared similar sentiments, saying, “I have no regrets. Today you put me on trial but tomorrow it may be you on trial.”

 

Nguyễn Văn Đài’s legal assistant Lê Thu Hà, who was arrested with him in December 2015, received nine years in prison. Lutheran pastor Nguyễn Trung Tôn and Trương Minh Đức both received 12 years. Nguyễn Bắc Truyển and Phạm Văn Trội received sentences of 11 and seven years in prison, respectively. All besides Lê Thu Hà are bloggers and citizen journalists who have been jailed before.

 

All six are members of the Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD), an organization that promotes civic engagement and provides training in human rights. The group began in 2013, with Nguyễn Văn Đài as one of the founding members.

 

A tightening grip on dissent

Commenting on the trial, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Lê Thị Thu Hằng said, “In Vietnam there is no such thing as a ‘prisoner of conscience’, and there’s no such thing as people being arrested for ‘freely expressing opinion’.”

 

People were quick to react on Twitter.

 

 

The latest research from Amnesty International shows there are currently close to 100 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. In 2017 alone, more than 40 activists were arrested, issued warrants or exiled in an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression.

 

The European Union also condemned the convictions. An EU spokesperson for the European External Action Service (EEAS) said the development “continues the negative trend of prosecuting and sentencing human rights activists and bloggers” in Vietnam.

 

Nguyễn Trung Trọng Nghĩa, who is the son of pastor Nguyễn Trung Tôn, told Loa that he and his family are heartbroken with the sentence. Nghĩa, also known as Effy, had been traveling the world to advocate for his father and other members of the BFD:

 

“It’s really horrible because my grandmother is already 90 years old. I don’t think she’s going to last the next 12 years,” he said. “I don’t think my father will get the chance to see her again. [We are] a family who has a member dedicating their lives to society and this is what we get from the government.”

 

 

Local and global support

 

Before the trial, supporters marched the roughly two kilometers from Thái Hà Church to the courthouse in Hanoi in solidarity with the six activists. A Facebook live video showed how the mobilization was followed and eventually broken up by security and plainclothes police. According to international news agency AFP, at least two participants were taken into unmarked vans by security police, and several others were taken into buses.

 

In the days leading up to the trial, hundreds of people around the world showed support for the activists by sharing photos with signs reading “Democracy is not a crime” along with the hashtag #HAEDC, which stands for the Brotherhood for Democracy.

“Democracy is not a crime. #HAEDC” Activist Héctor Castañón and his family in Mexico. (Photo credit: Facebook Việt Tân)

 

International rights organizations and family members have raised these activists’ cases for nearly two years, even garnering the attention of a United Nations body. Family members of the activists met with seven embassies before the trial to plead for support and intervention.

Political officers from the US, UK, French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, and Australian embassies with family members. (Photo credit: Facebook Huyen Trang)

 

As the trial closed, despite facing more than a decade behind bars, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển stated: “I will continue the struggle and if I must sit in jail, others on the outside will fight on for me and they will never stop.”




North Korea/ South Korea: 40 NGOs write to South Korean President Moon

April 9, 2018

 

Moon Jae-in
President of the Republic of Korea
1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu
Seoul 03048
Republic of Korea

Fax: +82 2-770-4721
E-mail: president@president.go.kr

 

Dear President Moon,

 

As your government discusses a proposed summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, we welcome the renewed inter-Korean dialogue and the recent progress in inter-Korean relations and urge your government to press for human rights issues to be included in all discussions with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including in the summit agenda.

 

The United Nations Security Council has recognized in several recent debates and resolutions that human rights abuses in the DPRK and regional peace and security are intrinsically connected. Any long-term resolution of security issues on the Korean peninsula will require addressing the DPRK’s repressive rights record and pressing the North Korean government to commit to fundamental and wide-ranging reforms. On March 12, 2018, at the UN Human Rights Council, Tomás Ojea-Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, urged countries to make it a priority to keep pressure on the DPRK to improve its human rights record and not allow it to be sidelined or upstaged by concerns about the DPRK’s weapons proliferation, noting that “any advancement on the security dialogue should be accompanied by a parallel expansion on human rights dialogue.”

 

We agree and urge you to include the following issues in the agenda of all meetings with the DPRK, including your summit with Kim Jong Un:

  1. Acting on United Nations Human Rights Recommendations

During 2017, there was some limited re-engagement by the DPRK with international human rights mechanisms. We recommend that you urge the DPRK to enlarge the scope of its cooperation, including in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), such as:

  • Undertaking immediate steps to address allegations about poor conditions and abuses in detention centers and prisons, including by opening all government detention centers, reeducation and forced labor camps, jails, and prisons to visits by international observers, and taking steps to release any detainees held for activities that should not, under international law, be criminalized, such as exercising freedom of speech and religion, attempting to leave or leaving the country without permission.
  • Engaging with and responding to recommendations and opinions from the UN Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry on the situation of human rights in the DPRK and engaging with the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, including facilitating a country visit by him and other relevant UN rapporteurs.
  • Continuing to engage with UN human rights mechanisms, including the upcoming UPR and under the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; accepting UN recommendations and implementing changes on the ground; and signing and ratifying key human rights treaties, including International Labor Organization conventions and the Convention against Torture.

 

  1. Inter-Korean Human Rights Engagement

The ROK’s North Korean human rights act of March 2016 calls on the ROK to seek a human rights dialogue with the DPRK and exchange information “to protect and promote the human rights of North Koreans.” We recommend that you press the DPRK to:

  • Establish a regular inter-Korean human rights dialogue and ensure that it is principled, follows clear benchmarks, and is accountable. Such meetings should be followed by public briefings about their content and agreements on next steps, which should include follow up meetings at the highest levels of each government.
  • Allow further inter-Korean information and personal exchanges and promote freedom of information and movement.
  • Agree on mutual free and uncensored television and radio broadcasts across the peninsula. One proposed first step could be negotiating for mutual broadcast of ROK national television channel KBS and the DPRK’s KCTV.

 

  1. Involuntarily Separated Families and Abductions

Since the Korean War (1950-1953), an estimated one million Koreans have been separated or forcibly removed from their families through displacement during the war, enforced disappearances and abductions, or following escape from the DPRK. According to the Ministry of Unification, about 130,000 ROK citizens have applied to take part in reunion meetings organized by the two Korean governments since 1988. Only about 18,800 people have met their families in reunions, while approximately 60,000 are still waiting to meet their family members. More than 60 percent are now in their 80s or older.

 

The Korean War Abductees Family Union estimates that South Korean civilians abducted across the border during the Korean War range between 82,000 and 100,000 individuals. The South Korean government documented over 500 abductions of South Korean nationals since the 1953 armistice. Since 2013, seven South Koreans have been detained in North Korea. Currently, there are over 30,000 North Koreans in South Korea with no legal way to communicate with family members in North Korea.

 

We recommend that you:

  • Continue to urge the DPRK to agree to regular reunion meetings of separated families, expanding its scope to any South Korean national with relatives in the DPRK, and allow regular exchanges of letters or phone calls and visits between them, at least on humanitarian grounds. Such meetings should not be held hostage to developments on security matters or inter-Korea relations.
  • Press North Korea to respect the right of every person to leave any country, including his/her own, and to return to her/his country, including by granting exit visas to all persons who hold or have held South Korean or other foreign nationality and their family members who wish to leave North Korea for South Korea or other countries. The International Committee of the Red Cross should be asked to independently assess each individual’s wishes in private interviews.
  • Urge the DPRK to engage in broader exchange on the issue of abductions and to commit seriously to investigate and respond to the allegations made against it.
  • Allow South Korean nationals to identify and collect the remains of deceased family members held by North Korea and vice versa.
  • Lift existing legal restrictions on inter-Korean people-to-people contact in North and South Korea.

 

  1. Humanitarian Aid

According to UNICEF, in December 2017 an estimated 18 million people in the DPRK were experiencing food insecurity, while 200,000 children were acutely malnourished. One in three children under five years of age, and almost half of the children between 12 and 23 months, were anemic. In October 2017, the UN World Food Program said it needed US$25.5 million for the following six months to aid North Korean women and children. UNICEF faces a shortfall of US$9.6 million to cover its programs in the DPRK in 2018. In September 2017, South Korea pledged to donate US$8 million to these two organizations, at a time to be established.

 

Humanitarian aid is an international responsibility and is crucial to protect human life and rights. At the same time, it is crucial to monitor the distribution of aid to ensure it is delivered to its intended recipients, the most vulnerable, and not diverted to the DPRK military or others, regardless of whether it is provided directly by the ROK or through South Korean private institutions. Humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations is critical for young children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, persons in detention, and pregnant and nursing women. We recommend that you:

  • Provide necessary humanitarian aid and urge the DPRK government to accept international or domestic humanitarian aid, with proper monitoring consistent with international standards of transparency and accountability. These standards include access throughout the country to determine needs and the ability to visit places where food and other aid is delivered.

 

We are fully aware that raising human rights issues with the DPRK is a daunting task and note North Korea’s comment on March 31, 2018, saying South Korea’s support of a resolution on the situation of human rights in North Korea at the UN Human Rights Council, is “an open political provocation to the DPRK and an intolerable act of chilling the atmosphere for dialogue.” However, we believe South Korea should maintain its “firm stance” as Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said but should further press to bring up the subject. Your government’s leadership is crucial in efforts to help improve human rights conditions in the DPRK while at the same time finding real, long-term solutions to the security crisis.

 

Thank you for your consideration and we would be pleased to discuss these matters further with your staff.

 

Sincerely,

 

1969 KAL Abductees’ Families Association, South Korea
ALTSEAN-Burma, Thailand
Amnesty International
Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos, Perú
Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL), Argentina
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR), South Korea
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), United States
Han Voice, Canada
Helping Hands Korea_Catacombs, South Korea
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers, Belgium
International Christian Concern (ICC), United States
International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK)
International Commission of Jurists
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI), United States
Korean War Abductees’ Family Union (KWAFU), South Korea
Liberty in North Korea (LINK), United States
National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, Japan
NKnet, South Korea
NK Watch, South Korea
No Fence, Japan
North Korea Freedom Coalition, United States
North Korea Strategy Center (NKSC), South Korea
Now Action & Unity for Human Rights (NAUH), South Korea
Open North Korea, South Korea
Peace and Hope International, United States
People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE), South Korea
Refuge Pnan, South Korea
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, United States
Saram, Germany
Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), South Africa
The Association for the Rescue of North Korea Abductees (ARNKA), Thailand
The Korea Future Initiative, United Kingdom
Transitional Justice Working Group, South Korea
Unification Academy, South Korea
Unification Media Group, South Korea

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

 

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/  




Syria: ‘Absentees law’ could see millions of refugees lose lands

Legislation could allow government confiscate properties of displaced Syrians unless they prove ownership in 30 days

 

By Arwa Ibrahim

 

Al Jazeera (07.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2uU2vg1 – As thousands of Syrians flee their homes in Eastern Ghouta to escape a fierce air and ground offensive led by pro-government forces, President Bashar al-Assad has introduced a new law which can potentially see the state confiscating the lands of millions of displaced people.

 

Law Number 10, introduced earlier this week, calls on Syrians to register their private properties with the Ministry of Local Administration within 30 days.

 

Titleholders must either provide proof of ownership documents themselves, or ensure a relative does so on their behalf. Otherwise, they face having to relinquish their properties to the state.

 

According to Article 2 of the law, a regulatory body will be responsible for drawing up a list of real estate owners – conditional on receiving documentation in support of ownership claims – for areas under government control.

 

Properties that are not reclaimed by their owners within the month-long period will otherwise become part of a plan to reorganise the areas they belong to into new residential zones.

 

But with about 13 million Syrians, internally or externally displaced and therefore unable to access their lands, many families face the potential of losing their homes forever.

 

“This law can effectively deprive millions of Syrians of their lands and properties,” said Nizar Ayoub, an international lawyer and expert on conflict resolution.

 

“It is the latest in a series of measures taken by the state to punish those who have opposed the Assad government by denying them their rights to their lands,” added Ayoub, founder of Al-Marsad, the Arab Centre for Human Rights in Golan Heights.

 

 

Syria’s ‘absentees law’

 

Legal experts have been quick to liken the recently introduced legislation to the Israeli Absentees’ Property Law.

 

That law was brought in after the 1948 war to allow arriving Israelis to move into the homes of millions of Palestinians forced off their lands.

 

“Just like the ‘Absentees Law’ allowed Israelis to take over the properties of Palestinians forced off their lands in 1948, Assad’s new law could see the state confiscating the lands of millions of displaced and refugee Syrians,” said Ayoub.

 

In recent years, the Absentees’ Law has been used by right-wing groups seeking to increase Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, which is traditionally dominated by Arab neighbourhoods.

 

 

‘If I go back, I’ll either be killed or arrested’

 

The move by Assad’s government comes just days after the latest batch of about 19,000 Syrians left their homes in Eastern Ghouta for the northern province of Idlib following two evacuation deals reached with the Russian army in March.

 

“This law is simply an extension to the enforced evacuations which aim to empty opposition areas of its rightful owners and give these lands to Assad,” said Abu Jawad, one the thousands of Syrians who fled their homes in Eastern Ghouta in recent weeks.

 

“It is impossible for me to go back home to prove my right to my lands and properties,” the 27-year-old, who owns two homes and an electronics shop in Hammouria, told Al Jazeera.

 

“If I attempt to do so, I’ll either be killed or arrested by pro-government forces,” added Abu Jawad who fled to the northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month.

 

To date, an estimated 150,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta have been evacuated to northern Syria.

 

 

Enforced change

 

The government says the new law aims to address the issue of squatter areas and the reconstruction of lands impacted by war.

 

Experts argue, however, that it aims to punish those who have opposed Assad as well as create demographic changes on the ground in Syria.

 

“It is completely illogical that a law which aims to rebuild Syria and repopulate areas affected by the war is introduced while the war is still ongoing,” Diala Shehade, a human rights lawyer, told Al Jazeera.

 

“Carrying out this transitional phase of reconstruction and re-population before addressing the issue [that] millions of Syrian are refugees or internally displaced, points towards the ill intentions of the Assad government,” she added.

 

Ayoub agrees: “The most dangerous thing about this law is that it has been issued in the midst of the ongoing armed conflict, and as millions of Syrians are unable to return to their homes to prove ownership of their properties,” he told Al Jazeera.

 

According to Ayoub, the law may, therefore, play into what has been described as a plan to change the demographics of Syria, which according to reports since 2015 has seen Shia communities from across Syria, Lebanon and Iraq resettle in areas previously inhabited by Sunnis who were forced to leave their homes.

 

Population exchanges have reportedly been key to a plan to make demographic changes to parts of the country.

 

The goal, some have argued, is to enable the government and its allies to pursue their strategic interests even further by creating specific areas under their direct control.

 

“If we take Eastern Ghouta as an example, the thousands of families who are now displaced for opposing Assad might be replaced by people who have supported him instead,” said Ayoub.

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

 

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/  




Iraq holds more than 19,000 accused of Daesh, militant ties

Daily Sabah (22.03.2018) – https://bit.ly/2I7GxHY – Iraq has detained or imprisoned at least 19,000 people accused of connections to the Daesh terrorist group or other terror-related offenses, and sentenced more than 3,000 of them to death, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

 

The mass incarceration and speed of guilty verdicts raise concerns over potential miscarriages of justice — and worries that jailed militants are recruiting within the general prison population to build new extremist networks.

 

The AP count is based partially on an analysis of a spreadsheet listing all 27,849 people imprisoned in Iraq as of late January, provided by an official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

 

The AP determined that 8,861 of the prisoners listed in the spreadsheet were convicted of terrorism-related charges since the beginning of 2013 — arrests overwhelmingly likely to be linked to Daesh, according to an intelligence figure in Baghdad.

 

In addition, another 11,000 people currently are being detained by the intelligence branch of the Interior Ministry, undergoing interrogation or awaiting trial, a second intelligence official said. Both intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press.

 

“There’s been great overcrowding … Iraq needs a large number of investigators and judges to resolve this issue,” Fadhel al-Gharwari, a member of Iraqi’s parliament-appointed human rights commission, told the AP. Al-Gharwari said many legal proceedings have been delayed because the country lacks the resources to respond to the spike in incarcerations.

 

Large numbers of Iraqis were detained during the 2000s, when the U.S. and Iraqi governments were battling militants, including al-Qaida, and Shiite militias. In 2007, at the height of the fighting, the U.S. military held 25,000 detainees. The spreadsheet obtained by the AP showed that about 6,000 people arrested on terror charges before 2013 still are serving those sentences.

 

But the current wave of detentions has hit the Iraqi justice system much harder because past arrests were spread out over a much longer period and the largest numbers of detainees were held by the American military, with only a portion sent to Iraqi courts and the rest released.

 

Human Rights Watch warned in November that the broad use of terrorism laws meant those with minimal connections to Daesh are caught up in prosecutions alongside those behind the worst abuses. The group estimated a similar number of detainees and prisoners — about 20,000 in all.

 

“Based on all my meetings with senior government officials, I get the sense that no one — perhaps not even the prime minster himself — knows the full number of detainees,” said Belkis Wille, the organization’s senior Iraq researcher.

 

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is running to retain his position in national elections slated for May, has repeatedly called for accelerated death sentences for those charged with terrorism. The spreadsheet analyzed by the AP showed that 3,130 prisoners have been sentenced to death on terrorism charges since 2013.

 

Since 2014, about 250 executions of convicted Daesh members have been carried out, according to the Baghdad-based intelligence official. About 100 of those took place last year, a sign of the accelerating pace of hangings.

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

 

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/  




Fisheries agreement with Morocco is an instrument of soft power for EU

By Willy Fautre, Human Rights Without Frontiers

Euractiv (16.02.2017) – http://bit.ly/2BZH3sV – At the end of the last UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Morocco’s human rights record in May 2017, Rabat agreed to implement a number of recommendations and has since opened legislative debates on several issues.

Trade relations and human rights have been interrelated in many resolutions of the European Parliament and have been on the agenda of civil society advocacy.

The EU as a soft power has often used its commercial agreements with third countries to promote human rights and good practices in a number of areas. Before Morocco’s next UPR in four years, the EU will have the opportunity to monitor the progress, or lack thereof, in the field of human rights and European standards.

The EU-Morocco Partnership provides a particular opportunity to the EU to play a major role in Morocco’s future and to develop European human rights standards in the country on various issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, women’s and children’s rights and domestic violence, where improvements are needed.

In 2012 EU exports to Morocco were worth about €7 billion and imports from the Kingdom just over EUR 9 billion, making the EU a major trade partner.

In the short term, there will be concrete opportunities for the EU to articulate political dialogues, economic agreements and human rights.

On 8 February, the Morocco-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee met in Strasbourg to monitor the work done in relation with the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) launched in 2003 on various issues: security, migration, human development, the fight against radicalism, economic and trade cooperation, and the relation between the EU and the African Union. Follow up meetings are scheduled.

An important area of cooperation is agriculture. On 31 January, Morocco and the EU initialed in Brussels a document strengthening their partnership under the farm agreement already binding the two parties. In 2016, the EU imported more than €3 billion worth of agricultural products from Morocco.

Another area of strategic cooperation between the two parties will concern the fisheries as the existing agreement will come to an end in July.

Fisheries are a main source of employment in Morocco. With its 3500 kilometers of coastlines (500 km on the Mediterranean coast and 3000 km on the Atlantic), the country has huge potential economic activity, export and income. With a production of 1.3 million tons in 2014, Morocco is the largest maritime fisheries producer in Africa and it occupies the 25th position in the world, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Fisheries represent 2.3% of the GDP of the country and the sector creates direct employment for 170 000 fishermen and indirect employment to an additional 500 000 people, according to the FAO which estimates that 3 million people in Morocco depend on fisheries for their livelihoods.

According to the last EU evaluation report on the Protocol to the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement, the estimates of the socio-economic impact of this agreement already show substantial benefits for the local population, especially in the southern regions of Dakhla-Oued Eddahab and Laayoune-Boujour-Sakia El Hamra (also called Western Sahara).

On the EU side, it is noteworthy that about 120 European vessels from 11 EU countries have access to the Kingdom’s fishing areas: France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and UK. The European Commission and the Council as well as all major EU Member States support the renewal of the partnership.

The renewal of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement will benefit the social and economic rights of all the Moroccans as well as social stability as it will constitute a sustainable factor contributing to local employment. If it were not renewed, tensions might affect the relations between the EU and Morocco. Moreover, the EU, as a soft power, might lose major leverage to induce positive changes in Morocco and improvements of civil and political rights. Such an asset should not be put at risk.

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/  




Romanian TV airs taped evidence against the DNA anti-corruption unit

1144

 

Romanians tuned in to Antena 3’s Sinteza Zilei television show last night to hear taped evidence about the country’s anti-corruption unit, the DNA.  The broadcast has caused shock waves regarding the DNA’s methods and activity.

 

By Gary Cartwright

 

EU Today (12.02.2018) – http://bit.ly/2ElgEan – Tapes were broadcast that revealed how two Romanian prosecutors created false evidence and how they instructed witnesses to produce falsified evidence.  The tapes also included the prosecutors stating that these actions had been sanctioned by Laura Kovesi, the head of the DNA. They referred to this sanctioning as a “green light”.

 

The two prosecutors accused in the evidence revealed last night had been praised in the past by Ms Kovesi for their “performance and activity”.

 

These television revelations about the DNA come just after concerns were raised in Brussels in a report published 22 January 2018 on the Romanian Justice System. The report analysed why judicial and penal reforms that were required of Romania prior to EU accession have still not been fulfilled. The report, published by EU Today, presented case studies to illustrate the politicised nature of the Romanian justice system, and highlighted the situation in Romanian prisons.

 

Further concerns have also been raised in Brussels by the organisation Human Rights Without Borders, who hosted an event at the Brussels Press Club on 24 January 2018 where speakers including former senior counter-terrorism chief Daniel Dragomir and analyst David Clark presented concerns over the independence of Romania’s judiciary and interference by the intelligence services in the judicial process.

 

………………………………….

If you want to be regularly informed about different violations of human rights in the world, click here for a free subscription to our newsletters!

 

Also:

HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/human-rights-in-the-world/

List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/