UN affirms concern over forced repatriation of North Koreans following criticism from rights groups

Aug 12, 2023, 2:27 AM

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights office expressed grave concern over the forced repatriation of North Koreans from China and elsewhere after facing criticism from rights groups for its “unacceptable silence” on the issue.

Taking aim at U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk and his office, a dozen rights groups issued a statement Friday saying it was “not too late” for the rights office “to publicly urge China to end the enforced disappearance and forcible repatriation of North Korean escapees” and allow for individual assessments of whether they qualify as refugees.

The groups include families of people who were abducted and sent back to North Korea, North Korean defectors, and the Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group which monitors and analyzes North Korea’s human rights record.

They warned that Chinese repatriations of North Korean escapees could increase if North Korea eases border restrictions after a prolonged COVID-19 shutdown which can enable “the resumption of the forcible repatriation of reportedly as many as 2,000 North Koreans detained as ‘illegal migrants’ in China,” citing a U.N. rapporteur’s report on North Korea’s rights record to the U.N. General Assembly presented last October.

This also comes in the run-up to Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, in late September and early October.

Responding to a request for comment from The Associated Press late Friday, spokesman Jeremy Laurence, said the U.N. human rights office was “gravely concerned” about forced repatriations of North Koreans from China and elsewhere.

He said such returns expose “them to real risks of serious human rights violations, such as arbitrary detention, torture and gender-based violence, including sexual violence.”

Laurence insisted the office had “raised these concerns publicly” on many occasions and “directly with the member states concerned” in order to uphold international human rights standards.

“The issue remains a priority for the U.N. human rights office,” he added.

The Chinese diplomatic mission in Geneva did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment from The Associated Press.


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UN affirms concern over forced repatriation of North Koreans following criticism from rights groups