November 15, 2019 10:08
The UN human rights agency could investigate South Korea's secret deportation last week of two alleged North Korean mass murderers who reportedly wanted to defect.
On Thursday, a source in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed concerns about the two men being at serious risk of torture and execution in the North.
Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, is expected to fly to Seoul later this month and may raise the matter with his hosts.
In a statement Thursday, Amnesty International condemned the repatriation of the two men, who confessed to killing 16 fellow crewmembers in a mutiny on a squid fishing boat, as a violation of international human rights norms. It warned that South Korean authorities did not abide by international principles that ban forced deportation.
The OHCHR expressed concerns that "the two are at serious risk of torture and execution following their return" due to "the lack of due process and fair trial guarantees" in the North.
The Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other international laws "prohibits the refoulement of individuals who are at serious risk of torture."
The government here described the two North Koreans as "brutal criminals" and claimed they are therefore not covered by conventions on the rights of refugees.
Human Rights Watch also condemned the deportation, saying, "South Korean authorities should have thoroughly investigated the allegations against the two men and ensured they had a full opportunity to contest their being returned to North Korea."
Rights groups here earlier pointed out that the men could easily have been prosecuted and punished to the full extent of South Korean law. They accuse the government of trying to pacify North Korea at the expense of human rights as it seeks to revive cross-border business projects.
The story of the mutiny that the two men reportedly told investigators is full of holes, but the government took only five days to arrange their secret repatriation with North Korean authorities. It only came to light when a text message to a Cheong Wa Dae official about the deportation was accidentally caught on camera as he was checking it.
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