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U.N. envoy on N. Korean human rights to visit S. Korea next week

All Headlines 15:52 November 17, 2011

SEOUL, Nov. 17 (Yonhap) -- The United Nations special envoy on North Korea will visit South Korea next week to meet senior officials here and collect the latest information about violations of human rights in the communist state, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

Special U.N. rapporteur on North Korean human rights Marzuki Darusman will arrive in Seoul Sunday to begin a six-day visit for talks with senior South Korean officials and North Korean defectors, ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

Darusman will also visit a government-run temporary base for defectors from North Korea, called the Hanawon center, and meet a 69-year-old South Korean man, whose wife Shin Sook-ja and two daughters were abducted by North Korea and are reportedly still alive in the North's prison system.

"During his visit, Darusman plans to meet with the husband of Shin Sook-ja, Oh Kil-nam, and representatives of civic groups trying to bring Shin and the daughters home," Cho said.

The planned visit by Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney-general, comes as a key U.N. committee is set to approve this week a draft resolution expressing "very serious concern" over widespread and grave violations of human rights at prison camps in North Korea, Seoul officials said.

The U.N. General Assembly's Third Committee, which handles humanitarian issues, will vote on the statement at its 66th session in New York.

The statement, obtained by Yonhap News Agency, says that the General Assembly "expresses its very serious concern at the imposition of the death penalty for political and religious reasons; collective punishments; and the existence of a large number of prison camps." South Korean officials said it is the first time a U.N. resolution on North Korean human rights has raised the issue of political concentration camps. The U.N. committee has, since 2005, annually adopted a resolution on abuses of human rights in North Korea, but never before included the issue of political prisoners.

The statement also expresses regret that a U.N. rights envoy has not been allowed to visit North Korea and the organization has received no cooperation from Pyongyang on its human rights situation.

North Korea has long been accused of human rights abuses, ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners to torture and public executions. Pyongyang has denied the accusations, calling them a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.


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