Corea del Norte está gobernada por el régimen más represivo y brutal del mundo, el cual no permite ninguna libertad, y viola cada uno de los artículos de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos todos los días. También es la nación más cerrada del mundo, extremadamente difícil de entrar o salir. Aquellos que lo hacen, como yo lo he hecho una vez, son estrechamente vigilados y controlados, mientras que los que tratan de salir del país sin permiso se enfrentan a prisión, tortura e incluso ejecución si son capturados.
La pandemia COVID-19 ha servido para endurecer aún más las restricciones al acceso. Al igual que muchos países que se preocupan por el coronavirus, Corea del Norte ha cerrado sus fronteras. La embajada de Gran Bretaña en la Ciudad de Pyongyang está cerrada desde el 27 de mayo, el Embajador Colin Crooks expreso en su cuenta de Twitter: “Trabajando desde Londres a la espera de mi regreso a Pyongyang”. Y la semana pasada, el régimen norcoreano advirtió a sus ciudadanos que se deben quedarse en el interior de sus casas por temor a que un “polvo amarillo” que soplara desde China pudiera traer coronavirus con él. El llamado “Reino hermético” se ha convertido en la nación “herméticamente cerrada”.
Y sin embargo, esto ofrece una rara oportunidad para salvar vidas, porque debido a las restricciones debido al COVID-19, Corea del Norte ha dicho a China que no recibirá la repatriación de los fugitivos norcoreanos. En tiempos normales, China tiene una política de retorno a la fuerza de los norcoreanos que escapan a través de su frontera, enviándolos de vuelta a la prisión de ciertas torturas, detenciones y, en algunos casos, ejecución, en flagrante violación del principio internacional de “no devolución”. Ahora, el régimen de Kim Jong-Un dice, que no los recibirá.
North Korea is ruled by the world’s most repressive, most brutal regime – one which does not allow any freedom whatsoever, one which violates every single article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights every day. It is also the world’s most closed nation – extremely difficult to get in or out of. Those who do visit – as I have done once – are tightly monitored and controlled, while those who try to leave the country without permission face imprisonment, torture and even execution if caught.
The COVID-19 pandemic has served to tighten the restrictions on access even further. Like many countries dealing with coronavirus, North Korea has sealed its borders. Britain’s embassy in Pyongyang has been closed since 27 May, with Ambassador Colin Crooks stating on his Twitter page: “Working from London pending my return to Pyongyang.” And last week, the North Korean regime warned its citizens to stay indoors over fears that a “yellow dust” blowing in from China could bring coronavirus with it. The so-called “hermit kingdom” has become the “hermetically sealed” nation.
And yet this offers a rare opportunity to save lives, because due to its COVID-19 restrictions, North Korea has told China it will not receive repatriation of North Korean escapees. In normal times, China has a policy of forcibly returning North Koreans who escape across its border, sending them back to face certain torture, detention and in some cases execution – in flagrant breach of the international principle of ‘non-refoulement.’ Now, Kim Jong-Un’s regime says it does not want them.
Save North Korean Refugees Day, which falls on 24 September, aims to highlight the terrible trials faced by North Korean refugees in China.
It also marks the day, 36 years ago, that China became a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, an agreement the country continues to violate through its treatment of North Korean escapees.
China’s forced repatriation of North Korean refugees is illegal as it violates the fundamental international humanitarian principle of ‘non-refoulement’, which prohibits receiving countries from returning refugees to a country where they would likely face persecution due to their “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.
And yet, that is exactly what they are being sent back to: North Korea is one of the world’s most repressive regimes, referred to by the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry as “a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world” in terms of human rights violations. CSW’s 2016 report previously revealed that deported escapees regularly face execution, torture, arbitrary detention, deliberate starvation, illegal cavity searches, forced abortions, and other sexual violence at the hands of the North Korean authorities.
“There is almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought conscience and religion as well as the right to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association.” That was the conclusion reached by the United Nations commission of inquiry into human rights in North Korea over two years ago. Indeed, the UN inquiry went further, noting that the regime in North Korea “considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat” and as a result, “Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted”. Severe punishments are inflicted on “people caught practising Christianity”.
Loyalty to the Regime is expected
Our new report – Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea – provides further evidence that freedom of religion or belief is a human right that is “largely non-existent” in the country. The ruling Kim dynasty is deified. Pictures of the three generations of dictators – Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-Il and now Kim Jong-Un – are displayed in private homes and public spaces, cleaned daily and inspected regularly by the authorities to ensure they are in the best condition. Allowing one of these photographs to decay or gather dust is akin to a blasphemy. Anything less than total loyalty to the ruling family is severely punished.
On World Refugee Day, CSW explores one of the major root causes of the refugee crisis.
The current refugee crisis has become a major news story with much of the focus placed on asking, “Where will they go?”
A seeming backlash against the unprecedented influx into Europe in particular has led some to respond: “Anywhere but here”, and has unleashed what UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has termed “widespread anti-migrant rhetoric”, which in turn has fostered “a climate of divisiveness, xenophobia and even… vigilante violence.”
Yet very few people have asked, “What caused them to flee in the first place, and how can we best address this?”
One key reason is the increase in violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) around the world. *Persecution and violence targeting religious communities is resulting in exceptionally high levels of population displacement, contributing to the worldwide refugee crisis.
“Persecution and violence targeting religious communities is resulting in exceptionally high levels of population displacement, contributing to the worldwide refugee crisis.”
These violations often take place in societies where other human rights are being abused and in situations generally characterised by an absence of rule of law, corruption, economic disparity and authoritarian rule.
Issues of race, ethnicity, political opinion and gender usually intersect with religious persecution; consequently, religion-based asylum claims often include other grounds as well.