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UN investigator condemns North Korea human rights violations

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea Vitit Muntarbhorn [official profile] on Thursday criticized [UN News Centre report; press conference video] the country's "abysmal" and ongoing human rights violations in an independent report submitted to the UN General Assembly. Muntarbhorn said that the authoritarian government was responsible for various abuses, including torture, public executions, extensive surveillance, media censorship, women's rights violations, and widespread hunger. The report claims that nearly 9 million people in North Korea suffer from food shortages, despite government revenues generated by several billion dollars in export trade. Citing World Food Program (WFP) [official website] numbers, Muntarbhorn said that less than a fourth of those affected by shortages receive international food aid, which has decreased recently in a backlash against the government's nuclear weapons testing [JURIST report]. Muntarbhorn urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il [BBC profile] to cease human rights abuses and work closely with international aid organizations. North Korea's Deputy UN Ambassador Pak Tok-Hun condemned the report [NYT report] and denied the allegations.

Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor who was appointed as a UN human rights expert in 2004, has not been allowed to enter North Korea to investigate. He based his report on testimonies of experts in the country and of North Korean emigrants. In March, Muntarbhorn told the UN Human Rights Council [official website] that he found egregious human rights violations [JURIST report] in North Korea. In October 2008, Muntarbhorn urged [JURIST report] North Korea to improve their treatment of prisoners and unsuccessful defectors, as well as to cooperate in locating kidnapped foreign citizens. In January 2008, Muntarbhorn made similar comments during his visit with a special UN envoy to Japan [press release; JURIST report] to assess the impact of the North Korean rights situation on that country. North Korea has frequently been accused of human trafficking, press repression, and "actively committing crimes against humanity" [JURIST reports].

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