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North Korea defends rights record at UN council review

[JURIST] The North Korean delegation to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] defended North Korea's human rights record Monday while presenting a report [text, PDF] in compliance with the UNHRC's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) [materials] process. Ambassador Ri Tcheul denied allegations of torture and claimed that serious malnutrition [Yonhap report] is no longer an issue in the country. Ri did acknowledge the occurrence of public executions [Daily NK report], but said they are only conducted for serious crimes at the request of the victims' families. Several UNHRC representatives urged the North Korean government to allow aid workers [AFP report] to bring food to its citizens, while others called on Pyongyang to allow access to the UN Special Rapporteur. The UNHRC, which has no binding authority, is expected to release its findings later this week.

In October, UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea Vitit Muntarbhorn [official profile] criticized [JURIST report] the country's "abysmal" and ongoing human rights violations in an independent report submitted to the UN General Assembly. 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 UNHRC that he found egregious human rights violations [JURIST report] in North Korea. In October 2008, Muntarbhorn urged [JURIST report] North Korea to improve its 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 [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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