28 November 2011An independent United Nations expert today urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to begin carrying out steps to end human rights violations in the country, including overhauling the prison system and detention policies. Marzuki Darusman called on the East Asian nation to cooperate with the UN human rights system as he concluded a five-day mission to the Republic of Korea to gather information on the alleged human rights violations in the DPRK. “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is perhaps the only country today that does not recognize that non-cooperation with the human rights mechanism is not an option,” he stressed in a news release. “I urge the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to overhaul the prison system, the criminal justice system and related detention policies in camps, which give rise to plethora of abuses, including torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” said Mr. Darusman, whose repeated requests to visit the DPRK have not been granted by the Government.He noted that the imposition of harsh and inhumane punishments, such as the death penalty and correction by hard labour continues in the DPRK. “Most of the asylum-seekers I interacted with had undergone harsh punishments in the forced labour camps and had either witnessed or heard of torture being implemented on other inmates.” There has also been a steady rise in the number of people from the DPRK seeking refuge in the Republic of Korea, with a 17 per cent increase from last year. Some asylum-seekers manage to finally make their way to the Republic of Korea, but many others are forcibly returned to the DPRK by the neighbouring countries, he noted.“While commending the Republic of Korea for the integration of asylum-seekers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I call on other neighbouring countries to protect and treat all people fleeing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea humanely and respect the principle of non-refoulment.”Mr. Darusman also stressed the need for the international community to resume humanitarian assistance to the people of the DPRK, stating that such aid, including food and medicine, should not be made contingent on any political requirements.“While I recognize that the primary obligation to feed its people is that of the state, I seize this opportunity to call on both the Republic of Korea and the international community to commence the provision of more humanitarian assistance, in particular food and supplementary nutrition for vulnerable group, such as children and women,” the expert urged.Mr. Darusman was designated the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK in August 2010. He reports in an independent and unpaid capacity to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.