North rapporteur raps China on its repatriations

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North rapporteur raps China on its repatriations

JAKARTA - The forced repatriation of North Korean defectors by Chinese authorities constitutes a violation of international law, a special rapporteur on the North’s human rights said yesterday, calling on Beijing to stop such actions.

“I will visit China soon to make it clear that sending North Korean defectors back to their country is in violation of international law, as they are refugees,” Marzuki Darusman, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of the communist North, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Darusman, a former Indonesian prosecutor general, has served as the director of the Human Rights Resource Centre for Association of Southeast Asian Nations since August 2010, with a specific mandate to investigate, monitor and recommend solutions to human rights problems in North Korea.

Tens of thousands of North Korean defectors are believed to be hiding in China, as a constant stream of North Koreans reportedly continues to cross the porous border into China to avoid chronic food shortages and political oppression.

China views the North Koreans as “economic migrants” and not refugees, and typically sends them back to their homeland where they can face harsh punishment.

“My planned trip to Pyongyang was rejected, but I’ll try again to get the real picture there regarding human rights issues,” Darusman said, calling on the North to “take a sincere attitude toward the international community by opening up on what is happening there.”

Speaking on a recent incident in which Pyongyang claimed Sin Suk-ja, the ex-wife of high-profile South Korean activist Oh Kil-nam, had died of hepatitis, Darusman said the key is “to confirm her death and learn the details.” Oh reportedly escaped the North alone in 1986, a year after his family was lured to the North via West Germany. His escape led to the detention of his wife and two daughters in a political prison camp. “Finding missing persons should not be considered political affairs, as it is a human rights issue,” Darusman said.

Assessing inter-Korean relations, the rapporteur said, “Pyongyang’s armed provocations, such as rocket launches, will prevent relations from going back on the right track.” He said he hoped the two Koreas would resume dialogue to ease the tension.

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