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Lawmakers, activists promote NK defectors` plight in Geneva

Lawmakers, activists promote NK defectors` plight in Geneva

Posted March. 15, 2012 02:26,   


A group of South Korean legislators and civic activists held a rally Wednesday in front of the U.N. Office in Geneva demanding a stop to China’s forced repatriation of North Korean defectors.

Reps. Kim Hyung-oh and Ahn Hyoung-hwan of the ruling Saenuri Party, Park Sun-young of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party, and members of an association of groups promoting human rights in North Korea urged the international community to save defectors, whose lives are at risk when repatriated.

“North Koreans who barely crossed their border to escape the worst-ever dead zone where human freedom and dignity are missing are on the verge of being sent back to their country after being arrested in China,” Kim said. “If they are dragged back, they will get locked up in concentration camps and receive inhumane treatment before dying slowly.”

After the rally, the group attempted to visit the Chinese mission in Geneva to send a protest letter, only to be rejected. In the letter, the protesters claimed that the defectors are not illegal border crossers but “cold and hungry refugees who risked their lives to go to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) or a third country via China.”

They also urged Beijing to stop arresting and repatriating the escapees and protect their human rights under international law. The delegation also tried to hand over the same letter to the North Korean mission, only to be rejected as well. They failed to conduct a planned street march because of rejection by Geneva authorities.

Prior to the rally, the group spoke separately to Alexander Aleinikoff, U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, and Kang Kyung-wha, deputy high commissioner at the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, to request that the world body actively work to raise global interest in human rights abuses suffered by defectors.

Aleinikoff said anyone who meets an international convention on refugees should get their rights as refugees recognized, adding that the U.N. is continuing to discuss with Beijing protection for defectors in China and treating them as refugees.