North Korea: Human Rights (Hansard, 15 March 2004)
HL Deb 15 March 2004 vol 659 cc5-8WA
Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made about the veracity of reports of biological and chemical experimentation on human subjects in North Korea. [HL1704]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

We are appalled by the reports of testing of biological and chemical weapons on human subjects in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Bill Rammell) summoned the DPRK Ambassador on 13 February and raised these allegations. EU partners and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have also called upon the DPRK to allow access to the country by independent human rights monitors to establish the veracity of such reports.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the recent meeting between the Government and the Ambassador of North Korea following the broadcast of a BBC programme detailing allegations of chemical weapons testing on civilians detained in prison camps. [HL1705]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Bill Rammell) summoned the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Ambassador on 13 February to discuss the allegations made in the BBC "This World" documentary, "Access to Evil". The Minister called upon the Government of the DPRK to allow access to independent human rights monitors to establish the veracity of these and other disturbing reports of human rights violations, as called for in the resolution adopted by the 2003 UN Commission on Human Rights. The ambassador maintained that independent human rights monitoring visits were not possible in the current security climate. We will continue to urge the DPRK to address our concerns about its human rights record and to co-operate with the UN human rights machinery.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What work they are undertaking in advance of the 2004 meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to ensure increased support for the resolution of human rights violations in North Korea, passed in 2003; and whether the Government have lobbied the commission to appoint a special rapporteur to monitor human rights abuses within North Korea. [HL1706]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

The Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have failed to comply with the recommendations set out in the resolution, which was adopted by a substantial majority in 2003, and have yet to respond to calls for independent monitors to be allowed access to the country to verify the numerous reports of human rights violations. At the 2004 meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) we will work to ensure that the language of the second resolution on the DPRK attracts broader support by UNCHR members. During the past year we have not lobbied the commission to appoint a special rapporteur on the DPRK but this is an option we are prepared to consider.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the six-party nonproliferation talks recently held in Beijing; whether human rights violations in North Korea have been raised during those talks; and what timetable has been established for the continuation and deepening of the process. [HL1707]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

At the second round of six-party talks which took place in Beijing in February participants agreed to establish a working group to continue discussions on the nuclear issue and to prepare for the next plenary meeting which will take place before the end of June 2004. Human rights issues were not raised at the talks. The remit and format of the working group has yet to be determined.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What initiatives have been launched to pursue the implementation of the resolution of the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on violations of human rights in North Korea. [HL1708]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

We have raised the issue of the UN Commission on Human Rights resolution regularly with the authorities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), on both ministerial and official levels, and have urged them to allow access to the DPRK by independent monitors. EU officials, visiting Pyongyang in December 2003, also raised the issues outlined in the resolution.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made for the release of all returnees, detainees and abducted citizens of Japan, the Republic of Korea and other nationals being held in North Korea; and what information they have on the plight of humanitarian aid workers, imprisoned in China and North Korea. [HL1709]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

We regularly express our deep concern about reports of cruel treatment of prisoners and returnees to the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). We have expressed full support for Japan's efforts to reach agreement with the DPRK Government on the abductee issue. We also raise the issue of the DPRK border crossers and humanitarian aid workers, including specific individual cases, with the Chinese Government on a regular basis. We discussed these most recently with the Chinese authorities at the EU-China human rights dialogue in February, and before that at the annual UK-China human rights dialogue in November last year.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will promote North Korea as a priority country for inclusion in the European Union Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights. [HL1739]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

Priorities for the EU Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) for 2004 have already been agreed. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not on the list of focus countries. However, in future years the fund will drop focus countries in favour of a thematic approach. Civil society organisations working in the DPRK may then be able to seek EIDHR funding.

GLOBAL ISLES COURT OF RECORD