11/07/2006, 00.00
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Seoul's human rights commission slams north for first time ever

Immediately after a new chairman was appointed, the government organization published a report describing North Korea's human rights and justice record as "deplorable". A complete dossier about abuses committed by Pyongyang should be published by the end of the year.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – For the first time ever, South Korea's National Human Rights Commission yesterday denounced human rights abuses committed by the Stalinist regime in the northern part of the peninsula.

Shortly after the appointment of the Ahn Kyong-hwan as its new head, the commission published a report titled "A Study on North Korea's Law and Human Rights", describing as "deplorable" the human rights record in territory governed by the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il.

Kim Young-cheol, a law professor at Konkuk University, is one of the eight authors of the report. He wrote: "North Korea operates political prisons and carries out public executions in violation of the principles of international law".

Lee Keum-soon, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute of National Unification, said: "South Korea must set forth parallel policies of helping the North Korean population by providing economic aid and persuading the regime in the North to improve rights conditions."

The views expressed in the report are not new, but it is the first time the commission has published its information about Pyongyang's violations.

Cho Young-whang, the commission's former head, often came in for criticism from South Korean lawmakers for his conciliatory approach towards the regime.

With the appointment of Ahn on 30 October, the commission changed direction. Already during his first hearing in parliament, he said the commission would "announce its position on North Korea and information in its possession as soon as possible". In an interview with the local media, Ahn said: "I can no longer remain silent about North Korea's rights abuses."

The document published yesterday is only the first part of a much vaster report that should be presented to the government by the end of 2006. Several legal experts are working on the text and they say the situation is "deplorable, but improving".

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