Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Ceisteanna (146)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

222 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding allegations of severe human rights abuses in North Korea; and if information is available on Camp 22 in that State. [3676/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is ruled by an authoritarian government which maintains tight and effective control on information concerning conditions in the country and has refused access to independent human rights monitors. For this reason it is very difficult for foreign governments and human rights organisations to assess accurately and independently the exact state of conditions in the DPRK. However, I am concerned by the weight of reporting that suggests ongoing repression of fundamental rights and freedoms. Of more particular, and serious, concern to the Government are the recent media reports and allegations of grave human rights abuses in prison camps and Camp 22 in particular.

The protection of human rights was raised by the EU Troika delegation which travelled to Pyongyang in December 2003. The EU delegation, which included Irish officials, emphasised to the DPRK authorities the importance of respecting international human rights norms, and reiterated our willingness to engage on this issue, and to share with the DPRK the experience and expertise of the EU in the area of human rights. However, despite such efforts, it is proving difficult to develop a dialogue with the DPRK authorities on human rights, whilst the nuclear issue continues to dominate the agenda.

The EU has also sought to address this matter through the appropriate bodies of the UN. The 2003 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, CHR, in Geneva adopted a resolution put forward by the EU on the human rights situation in the DPRK. This resolution reaffirmed that it is the responsibility of the Government of the DPRK to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for its entire population and expressed the deep concern of the CHR at reports of systemic, grave and widespread abuses of human rights in that country. The CHR also noted with regret that the authorities of the DPRK had not created the necessary conditions to permit the international community to verify such reports in an independent manner. As EU Presidency, we are examining closely all such reports and considering them carefully with our EU partners, in advance of the next session of the CHR, to take place in March this year.

In this regard, I on the government of the DPRK to respond to the reports and the human rights concerns of the international community as a matter of urgency, to co-operate fully and without restriction with the UN in relation to human rights, and to ratify and above all implement the key international human rights instruments to which it is not yet a party. These include most notably the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Sorts of Racial Discrimination. These would be important steps towards the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground for the people of the DPRK, and would facilitate a constructive approach to human rights co-operation with the international community.

The elimination of human rights abuses has long been a central tenet of Ireland's foreign policy, and I assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to work, together with our EU partners and through the UN, to press for further information and openness from the DPRK authorities, and to address our concerns about the current human rights situation there.