Swiss urge North Korea to reopen borders for ‘crucial’ humanitarian aid

North Korea has imposed an ultra-lockdown against the Covid-19 pandemic but still officially has no cases. Keystone / Cha Song Ho

Switzerland has called on North Korea to reopen its borders for urgent humanitarian aid and Covid-19 related medical evacuations, saying this is “crucial”.

This content was published on March 10, 2021 - 17:48

Swiss number two at the UN mission in Geneva Felix Baumann told the Human Rights Council on Wednesday that Bern remains concerned about the "significant lack of improvement" in human rights in North Korea. He pointed to "serious" and "systematic" violations, including reports of torture and forced labour, particularly in detention centres.

This follows a report to the Human Rights Council last week saying North Korea was using the coronavirus pandemic to further undermine fundamental rights. UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the country Tomas Ojea Quintana referred to unconfirmed reports of a policy to "shoot on sight" those who try to escape the secretive country, which the United States also denounced on Wednesday before the UN body.

The report says several people have been executed or detained in a new anti-coronavirus prison for failing to honour pandemic-related quarantines. The North Korean authorities have not yet announced a single case of Covid-19 infection.

The Special Rapporteur noted that only three international aid workers remain in the country. He also states in his report that probable crimes against humanity are still taking place. He asked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organise an international conference on prisons in the country.

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