NEW YORK – The special rapporteur on North Korean human rights Friday voiced concerns that U.N. Security Council’s sanctions imposed on the country for its nuclear weapons program are having an impact on the civilian population.
“I am committed to address the possibility of (the) negative impact of sanctions coming from the Security Council into the livelihood of ordinary people of the DPRK,” Tomas Ojea Quintana said at a press conference, referring to the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The council has imposed a series of increasingly biting sanctions resolutions since 2006 in efforts to choke off funding that the leadership is using to fuel its banned weapons programs. The last resolution, adopted in September following the country’s sixth and largest nuclear test, hit across new sectors including coal, iron, seafood and textiles.
On Thursday, Quintana told a U.N. committee charged with overseeing human rights issues that cancer patients are having difficulty getting chemotherapy and the disabled are having problems receiving wheelchairs in the country.
While he said it was “too difficult” to weigh in on how the latest sanctions measures would hit the civilian population more precisely, he said he met Thursday with members of the Security Council’s sanctions committee to address these concerns.
In addition to the 15-member sanctions committee, there is also a so-called panel of experts that monitors the implementation of the sanctions regime and reports on violations. The eight-member group is composed of representatives from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as members from Japan, South Korea and South Africa.
“My call is to be committed and prepared and use all the resources that the United Nations has, especially the panel of experts, to pay attention to this problem,” Quintana noted.
As the human rights expert has been denied access to the country, his assessments rely on interviews and information gathered from individuals, mainly asylum seekers living in South Korea. In December, he is planning to visit South Korea, where an office has been established and is also contemplating making his first visit to the Demilitarized Zone.
Among other issues, he voiced concern about the treatment of North Koreans along the border, both on the Chinese side and in their home country, as well as ongoing concerns over the fate of the Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents mainly in the 1970s and 1980s.
“This issue of abductees, of people disappeared, it is very important,” he noted, emphasizing how families should be provided information about the abducted persons and their welfare and whereabouts.
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