The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Marzuki Darusman, today expressed his extreme concern for the protection of nine North Korean defectors, mostly minors and reportedly all orphans, who were reportedly sent back to China on 27 May from the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos).
"The status and whereabouts of this group, many of them children, is currently not known," Darusman said, "but I have very real concerns about the penalties and treatment they could face if returned to DPRK, and all the concerned authorities have an urgent responsibility to ensure their protection."
The nine orphans were reportedly arrested by the Laotian police while crossing the Laos-China border.
"I am extremely disappointed that the Laos Government appears to have abdicated its protection responsibilities in this way, and I urge the Chinese authorities not to do the same," he said.
"No one should be refouled to DPRK where they may face persecution or severe punishment, including torture and the death penalty," the Special Rapporteur underscored.
If the group has already been returned to DPRK, Darusman appealed to the DPRK authorities to show transparency and give the group access to an independent actor who could determine their status and wellbeing.
In successive resolutions on DPRK, the U.N. General Assembly has expressed serious concern about the situation of refugees and asylum seekers expelled or returned to DPRK and the sanctions imposed upon those repatriated from abroad.
Separately the U.N. Human Rights Council has appointed a commission of inquiry to probe and further document "the grave, systematic and widespread violations of human rights and possible crimes against humanity in North Korea."
The mandate was originally established in 2004 by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and continued subsequently by the Human Rights Council. Mr. Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) is currently the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as designated in August 2010 by the U.N. Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.