[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea Vitit Muntarbhorn [press release] on Thursday called [UN News Centre report] on the country to take urgent action to improve its rights record. Muntarbhorn said the country holds public executions, punishes those who have unsuccessfully sought asylum in other countries, and has failed to cooperate with efforts to locate kidnapped foreign citizens thought to be held in the country. He also said that while the country has been generally cooperative with international aid efforts, there have been reports of long-distance call restrictions in a effort to quiet news of food shortages [VOA report]. Reporting to the UN General Assembly [official website] panel, Muntarbhor called on North Korea to cease these actions, and to make longer-term changes decreasing its emphasis on the military and promoting economic development and broader recognition of human rights. AFP has more.
Muntarbhorn made similar observations in January when he and a special UN envoy visited Japan [press release; JURIST report] to assess the impact of the North Korean rights situation on that country. In November 2007, South Korean aid agency Good Friends [advocacy website, in Korean] said that the North Korean government has increased the use of public executions [JURIST report]. The government of North Korea has long been accused of using the death penalty against its political enemies, among other human rights violations. In September 2007, the US State Department designated North Korea as a "country of particular concern" for its systematic repression of religious freedom in its annual Report on International Religious Freedom [text; JURIST report]. North Korea has also been accused of human trafficking, press repression, and "actively committing crimes against humanity" [JURIST reports].