North Korea envoy walks out of UN rights council

The North Korean ambassador to the UN in Geneva walked out of a Human Rights Council hearing on rights violations in his country when Japan took the floor.

North Korea envoy walks out of UN rights council
UN Human Rights Council headquarters in Geneva. Photo: UNHRC

So Se Pyon first interrupted a statement by the head of the Japanese Association of Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea to challenge his right to address the council, before standing up and walking out in protest.
Shigeo Iizuka, the head of AFVKN, took the floor on behalf of Japan to speak about his own sister Yaeko Taguchi, who was abducted from Japan by North Korea in 1978.
"She pleaded desperately to be returned to Japan for the sake of her infant children," he told the council.
Pyongyang admitted in 2002 that it had abducted about a dozen Japanese nationals over two decades and said eight of them had died, including Taguchi. 

Tokyo has rejected the North's claims that some of the abducted had committed suicide.
Tensions remain high between the two countries over a range of issues, particularly North Korea's nuclear programme.
Just seconds into Iizuka's speech, So banged his table to interrupt the intervention.
"I need the clarification if he is a representative of the government of Japan or not," he said.
When council president Baudelaire Ndong Ella informed So that Iizuka had been duly accredited to speak, he stood up and walked out of the council.
The move came as the council discussed a searing 400-page report by a team of UN investigators documenting a range of brutal human rights abuses in the country, including the extermination of people, enslavement and sexual violence.
The team, headed by Australian Michael Kirby, estimated that 200,000 people from other countries had been abducted by North Korea or disappeared after travelling there willingly.
Most were South Koreans stuck after the 1950-1953 Korean War ended, and ethnic Koreans who arrived from Japan after 1959.
Hundreds of South Koreans, Japanese and nationals of countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Lebanon, Romania and France have also been press-ganged as language teachers or even spouses.
North Korean defectors have also been kidnapped from countries including China.
"These international enforced disappearances are unique in their intensity, scale and nature," the report said.
Monday's discussion came after a widely publicised meeting last week between the elderly mother of another Japanese woman kidnapped and taken to North Korea as a schoolgirl with her long-lost granddaughter.
Megumi Yokota who was only 13 years old when she was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1977 on her way home from school.
Yokota's parents spent five days last week with their granddaughter, 26-year-old Kim Eun-Gyong, and her family in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, the foreign ministry said without offering details.
Kirby on Monday insisted that North Korea should "allow separated families to communicate with each other through mail and telephone and to permanently reunite."

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


US admits police killings thwart civil rights

The United States acknowledged in Geneva on Monday that more needed to be done to uphold its civil rights laws following a string of recent killings of unarmed black men by police.

US admits police killings thwart civil rights
Riot police contend with demonstration over death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month. Photo: AFP

Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, a US representative stressed the advances his country had made in establishing a range of civil rights laws over the past half century.
But referring to a long line of recent cases of alleged abuse of African Americans by police, James Cadogan, a senior counselor in the justice department's civil rights division, admitted that "we must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to their promise."
"The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio, and Walter Scott in South Carolina have . . . challenged us to do better and to work harder for progress," he said.
The United States was undergoing a so-called Universal Periodic Review of its rights record — which all 193 UN countries must undergo every four years.
The US delegation, headed by US ambassador to the council Keith Harper and acting US legal advisor Mary McLeod, faced a range of questions from diplomats about law enforcement tactics, police brutality and the disproportionate impact on African Americans and other minorities.
The half-day review in Geneva came after the US justice department on Friday launched a federal civil rights investigation into whether police in Baltimore have systematically discriminated against residents, following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody last month.
Six police officers have been charged in connection with Gray's arrest and death.

One faces a second-degree murder charge.
Cadogan insisted Washington was intent on bringing abusive police officers to justice.
"When federal, state, local or tribal officials wilfully use excessive force that violates the US Constitution or federal law, we have authority to prosecute them," he said, pointing to criminal charges brought against more than 400 law enforcement officials over the past six years.
Also on the agenda during Monday's review was the continued use of the death penalty, and the US record on addressing its "war on terror" legacy, including Washington's failure to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba and CIA torture revelations.
"As President (Barack) Obama has acknowledged, we crossed the line, we did not live up to our values, and we take responsibility for that," McLeod said of the past cases of CIA torture, detailed in an explosive Senate report last December.
"We have since taken steps to clarify that the legal prohibition on torture applies everywhere and in all circumstances, and to ensure that the United States never resorts to the use of those harsh interrogation techniques again," she said.