N Korea says it’s ‘gravely concerned’ about Australian human rights abuses

23-Jan-2021 Intellasia | Nknews | 6:02 AM Print This Post

After dozens of countries railed against Australia’s treatment of refugees and indigenous people at a United Nations meeting this month, North Korea is also jumping in to say that it’s “gravely concerned” about human rights in Australia despite its own long-documented record of abuses.

On Wednesday, a senior North Korean foreign ministry issued three recommendations for Canberra to improve its handling of race issues, detainees and disabled citizens.

“The DPRK delegation is gravely concerned about the continued human rights violations in Australia [and] the infringement upon international human rights law,” said Han Tae Song, the DPRK’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

Speaking at the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Human Rights in Geneva, Han also said that Australia should “end deep-rooted racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia on the basis of ethnic, racial, cultural or religious background in the public sphere.” He also brought up “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in public places of detention” such as “sexual violence” and “routine strip searches” in Australia.

Analysts say that the critique is nothing new for North Korea, a country that is frequently lambasted for its own abuses, which include torture, coerced confessions, forced abortions and political prison camp sentences.

“On the surface it sounds absurd, but I would say it’s entirely normal: It’s North Korea being North Korea, behaving the way it has for the past dozen years,” said Professor Lee Sung-yoon of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. “Since the UN Commission of Inquiry in 2014, DPRK officials at the UN in New York as well as Geneva have been very vigorous in defending their own human rights situation, while criticising the US and other nations for their purported human rights violations.”

North Korea first began drawing attention to overseas human rights issues around March 2009 through a detailed report about problems in the United States that contained several “credible, valid criticisms,” Lee said.

Meanwhile, Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University and a director at Korea Risk Group (which oversees NK News and NK Pro), said that many countries use human rights abuses as a way to pressure and sway each other.

“[Human rights] are usually used to undermine the credibility of regimes that one does not like. And if one does for some reason like that regime, then they always close their eyes to the abuses,” he said. “It has been and probably always will be a stick to beat North Korea … But North Korea does have human rights violations probably some of the worst in the world.”

Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings, an associate director of research at the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership at Deakin University, said that North Korea’s remarks about racism and detention in Australia were “very valid points.”

“This is a good reminder that North Korea does participate in the UPR process and I think there’s of course a lot of emphasis on its own review, but part of that process is also contributing to the review of other countries,” Zadeh-Cummings said. “It’s a two-way street.”

She added that North Korea’s mention of disability rights was also interesting, since “disability rights is an area where North Korea does have some engagement with the international human rights community.” The DPRK signed the UN convention on disabilities in the wake of the 2014 Commission of Inquiry into North Korean human rights abuses.

Pyongyang’s criticism comes amid a growing push by Beijing to target Canberra over human rights in recent weeks. And while the DPRK has joined in on that criticism, North Korea’s foreign ministry has also issued multiple statements of support for China when international criticism grew over Beijing’s handling of protests in Hong Kong in 2019.

NK News reached out to Australia’s foreign ministry for comment and has not yet received a response.



Category: Korea

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