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(LEAD) Unification, NK rights issue could be mutually beneficial: U.N. rapporteur

All Headlines 18:21 September 09, 2015

(ATTN: ADDS photo, more info in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- A top U.N. human rights investigator said Wednesday that the pursuit of inter-Korean unification and ensuring North Korea's responsibility for its human rights violation can be mutually beneficial as the improvement of the North's rights records is the commonality between them.

Marzuki Darusman, U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea, said that South and North Korea's recent deal on easing military tension is a "promising development," which would encourage discussions on unification to increase.

"This discussion on unification makes the work on accountability even more urgent," Darusman told a press conference in Seoul. He arrived in Seoul Sunday for a five-day stay.

He said that while the issue of unification is "paramount," the global community should also "firmly and robustly" deal with the North's accountability for crimes against humanity.

"At the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that both unification and accountability share a common goal -- the improvement of the human rights situation on the Korean Peninsula," he said.

It marked his first visit to Seoul since the United Nations opened its field office in June here, which is tasked with monitoring the state of human rights in North Korea.

His visit also coincided with South and North Korea's recent landmark deal to improve ties and to resume reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

Some said that there are concerns that possible rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula may make it difficult for South Korea to strongly urge the North to improve its human rights conditions.

Darusman said that the pursuit of unification and the North's accountability over the issue is "not a matter of one against the other," but a matter of being mutually beneficial.

"If unification takes place prior to accountability, then that is to be welcomed as that would enable the accountability process to be implemented," he said. "At the same time, the pursuit of accountability may induce process towards unification."

North Korea has long been regarded as one of the worst human rights violators. Pyongyang has bristled at such criticism, calling it a U.S.-led threat to its regime.

North Korea's rights situation was in the spotlight as the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) last year unveiled a report that accused Pyongyang of "systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights."

In a related move, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution in December that calls for the U.N. Security Council to refer the North's situation to the International Criminal Court.

Darusman called for the global community to start laying down the framework for the accountability process as now is time to "go beyond rhetorics."

"It is now time to consider the concrete measures that should be taken to ensure accountability for those crimes and to set up a broader process of transitional justice," the U.N. rapporteur said.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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