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North Korea: Human Rights

Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in North Korea, with particular reference to the repatriation of North Korean refugees by China; and if he will make a statement. (289287)

As set out in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Annual Human Rights Report, the Government continues to be deeply concerned by the reports of serious, widespread, and systematic human rights violations in North Korea. We raise these issues with the North Korean authorities at every appropriate opportunity. However, the North Korean government refuses to engage. Our ambassador in Pyongyang raised our concerns with the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Speaker of the North Korean parliament in February 2009 during the visit to North Korea by Lord Alton and Baroness Cox. He emphasised the importance of dialogue on human rights and urged North Korea to accept a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur.

The Government have also continued to look for opportunities to engage on the issue of North Korean refugees. We urge China to observe its obligations under the 1951 convention on the status of refugees and to allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees access to the China-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) border region. This subject was raised with the Chinese at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in January 2009. We urged China not to return those people crossing the border from DPRK to China. At our request, the issue of North Korean refugees was included in the UN Human Rights Council resolution on DPRK which was agreed on at the 10th session of the Human Rights Council which was concluded on 27 March 2009.