The UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights Marzuki Darusman called [statement; press release] Friday on the new leadership of North Korea (DPRK) [JURIST news archive] to improve human rights concerns in their country. The statement comes as North Korea begins a new era of leadership under Kim Jong-un [BBC profile], the son of and successor to the recently deceased leader Kim Jong-il [BBC obituary]. Darusman gave the statement at the end of an official visit to Japan where he met with North Korean defectors and Japanese officials engaged with North Korea. He said that he had gathered information including "numerous reports of a dire humanitarian situation, in particular the serious shortage of food, and the critical human rights situation" in North Korea. Darusman noted the potential for improved human rights with the new leadership:
The ramifications of this change on the people of DPRK, and on neighboring countries will only unfold in the comings days and months. However, I am hoping that the new leadership in DPRK will use the change in leadership as an opportunity to engage with the international community and secure global confidence. The world is eagerly looking at DPRK to see what lies ahead, and hoping that the authorities will take measures to improve the human rights situation of the people of DPRK.Darusman also discussed the alleged abduction of Japanese and other foreign nationals by North Korea, and advocated for their return.
Darusman criticized North Korea's human rights record in November, focusing on the treatment of prisoners and echoing a UN General Assembly [official website] resolution [text] concerning the country's human rights conditions. In March 2010 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] adopted a resolution condemning [JURIST report] North Korea for human rights abuses. Earlier in March, the UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn reported to the UNHRC that North Korean human rights situation was continuing to deteriorate [JURIST report]. This report came after Muntarbhorn's previous criticism, in October, 2009, of North Korea's "abysmal" [JURIST report] and ongoing human rights violations, alleging that the authoritarian government was responsible for various abuses, including torture, public executions, extensive surveillance, media censorship, women's rights violations and widespread hunger.