The UN special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea on Monday said any security and political negotiations with the DPRK should also include discussions on the country’s poor human rights record.
Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Tomas Ojea Quintana said any talks should be accompanied by an effort to address the country’s human rights violations, including the DPRK’s prison camps.
“My main message today is that any advancement on the security dialogue should be accompanied by a parallel expansion on the human rights dialogue,” Quinata said in comments carried by Reuters.
In an interactive dialogue with the UNHRC, Quintana stressed that North Korea continues to operate prison camps, restrict the freedoms of North Koreans and that the DPRK government remains unable to meet the food demands of its population.
The UN special rapporteur also noted that he had not been allowed to visit the DPRK, an asked the North Korean government to give him permission to make an assessment of conditions on the ground.
The discussion was attended by 32 UN member states, though no representative from North Korea was present.
“The Special Rapporteur said that there was an empty seat in the meeting, that of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” a press release covering the meeting said.
“The dialogue was organized so the Human Rights Council could listen to that regime’s vision and plans. Developments to address the security situation in the region must give rise to a change in Pyongyang’s policy on human rights.”
Quintana’s comments follow from a sudden announcement last week that U.S. President Donald Trump would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss denuclearization.
North Korea is sensitive about its human rights record and regularly denounces attempts to talk about conditions in the country as a U.S.-led smear campaign via its state-owned newspapers.
It’s also unclear if the U.S. President will focus on North Korean human rights issues during the upcoming negotiations.
“If the question were how best to structure the talks with the DPRK in purely diplomatic terms then human rights would be unlikely to figure in the early stages of any dialogue,” a North Korea expert with diplomatic experience told NK News.
“The agenda is heavily loaded with difficult topics already.”
While Trump has met with North Korean defectors and criticised the DPRK’s human rights record, after a year in the White House the Trump Administration has also been accused of lacking focus on human rights issues.
In its 2018 report released in January, Human Rights Watch said U.S. government efforts to protect human rights both domestically and internationally had regressed.
“The Trump administration has promoted policies that put vulnerable people in increased danger and undermine constitutional protections for everyone’s human rights,” Alison Parker, director of the US program at Human Rights Watch said in a press release at the time.
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Featured Image: UN, Geneva by shinji_w on 2013-10-30 14:15:04