Unprotected and Exploited: North Korean Women & Children

2017 ICNK Side Event poster

 
UN: Justice for North Korean Women and Children
ICNK Co-Sponsors Panel Discussion in Geneva on March 10
(Geneva, March 10, 2016) – The North Korean government needs to answer for its systematic violations of the rights of women and children, a coalition of expert groups said today, ahead of a panel discussion on the topic. The coalition includes People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE), Human Rights Watch, and the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK).

North Koreans who have escaped the country report that the government systematically indoctrinates and exploits people from childhood, and fails to take action against acts of physical and sexual violence against women and girls. “Women and children who are abused in North Korea have no way to ensure their voices are heard and nowhere to turn to for protection,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Human Rights Council needs to be a light in the darkness for these people, and pressure Pyongyang’s rulers to treat women and children’s rights with the importance they deserve.”

The event “Unprotected and Exploited: North Korean Women and Children” takes place on March 10 at 2:00 p.m. in room XXVI at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, on the sidelines of the 34th session of the Human Rights Council.

It will feature two international experts: Tomás Ojea Quintana, the new special rapporteur on
the situation of human rights in North Korea; and Sonja Biserko, expert of group of
independent experts on accountability, and former member of the Commission of Inquiry (COI)
on North Korea. Three North Korean escapees will also share their experiences, including Choi
Ju-Yeon, who was forced to do hard labor in school; Lee So-Yeon, who will talk about
discrimination and violence against women and girls; and Park Kyung-Ho, who was first forced
to labor in an orphanage, and then later in paramilitary brigades.
The organizers of the event, joined by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Jubilee Campaign,
and Human Rights Without Frontiers, call for North Korea be held accountable for its failure to
comply with its commitments as a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and
the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Former Korean Workers Party officials who have escaped the country told researchers from the
assembled groups that government authorities do not acknowledge cases of child exploitation,
nor consider acts of violence against women as serious crimes, so they rarely prosecute
perpetrators and do little to protect victims.
North Korean students and teachers told Human Rights Watch that their schools have forced
them to work without pay on farms for a month at a time at least twice a year – during the
ploughing and seeding of the fields, and again to harvest the crops. Other forced labor includes
gathering scrap metals and old paper, breaking rocks transporting them, gathering firewood,
picking wild greens, and growing crops such as corn, radish, potatoes or cabbage.
The government has also compelled numerous North Korean children to join paramilitary
forced labor brigades when they reach the age of 16, and work for extended periods of time
without pay. These brigades are controlled and operated by the ruling Korean Workers Party,
have military structures, and work primarily on construction of buildings and other forms of
basic public infrastructure.
“Exploitation is just a normal part of everyday life for any child in North Korea whose parent
cannot pay bribes to avoid it,” said Kwon Eun-Kyoung, Secretary General of the ICNK. “The
government calls it an expression of loyalty, but anywhere else in the world, it is considered a
horrible crime to condemn and halt immediately.”
North Korean escapees and party officials allege that unwanted sexual contact, such as men
indiscriminately touching women’s body parts on trains and in public areas like markets, is
common. Also, under the current economic system, in which government regulators are almost
all men, women are particularly vulnerable to coercion, which can include both sexual demands
and bribes. The cost of refusing such demands can include arbitrary arrest, being sent to prison
or forced labor camps for engaging in market or trading activities, confiscation of goods and
money, increased future scrutiny, being deprived of means of transportation or business
opportunities, and facing increased physical and sexual violence.
The United Nations’ COI on rights abuses in North Korea found in 2014 that the gravity, scale
and nature of violations revealed a state without parallel in the contemporary world, and added
that the violations amounted to crimes against humanity. The Human Rights Council and the
UN General Assembly have repeatedly condemned the human rights situation in North Korea.
The UN Security Council has recognized the gravity of the situation by addressing North Korea’s
bleak human rights record as a threat to regional peace and security as a formal agenda item
three years in a row.
“The Human Rights Council should urgently provide additional financial support and expertise
in international criminal justice to its office in Seoul,” said Young Il Kim, director of PSCORE.
“Women and children in North Korea need the international community to stand with them
and make sure these unchecked abuses end.”

The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea is a joint effort of
over 40 human rights groups worldwide that seeks to protect the human rights of North Koreans
and to hold the Pyongyang government accountable for its abuses and violations of the human
rights of the North Korean people.

Members and supporters of the Coalition include:
Advocates International Global Council
Asia Justice and Rights
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
Asian Human Rights & Humanity Association of Japan
Burma Partnership (Thailand)
Christian Lawyers Association for Paraguay
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (USA)
Conectas (Brazil)
Council for Human Rights in North Korea (Canada)
Freedom House (USA)
NK Watch (ROK)
Free North Korea Radio (ROK)
Han Voice (Canada)
HH Katacombs (ROK)
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers (Belgium)
Inter-American Federation of Christian Lawyers
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
COMJAN (Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North
Korea)(Japan)
Japanese Lawyers Association for Abduction and Other Human Rights Issues in North Korea
Jubilee Campaign (USA)
Justice for North Korea (ROK)
Kontras (Indonesia)
Liberty in North Korea – LiNK (USA)
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (Japan)
Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (ROK)
NK Intellectual Solidarity (ROK)
No Fence (Japan)
North Korea Freedom Coalition
Odhikar (Bangladesh)
Open North Korea (ROK)
People In Need (Czech Republic)
PSCORE (ROK)
PSALT NK (Prayer Service Action Love Truth for North Korea)
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (USA)
SARAM – Für Menschen in Nordkorea (Germany)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (USA)
The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea (Japan)
Students Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (ROK)
World Without Genocide (USA)
Young Defectors’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (ROK)
Yuki Akimoto, Burmainfo (Japan)
Tomoharu Ebihara
David Hawk, Visiting Scholar, Columbia University, Institute for the Study of Human Rights,
and author of Hidden Gulag
Ken Kato, Director, Human Rights in Asia (Japan)
Tomoyuki Kawazoe, Representative, Kanagawa Association for The Rescue of Japanese
Kidnapped by North Korea / Member, Reporters Without Borders
Suzanne Scholte, Seoul Peace Prize Recipient & Defence Forum Foundation (USA)

PRESS RELEASE: Terrorism in Nigeria

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On March 6, 2017 Jubilee Campaign held a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland at the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council titled Terrorism in Nigeria: Boko Haram succeeded by rising Fulani militancy. Panelists of the press conference included Mr. Mark Lipdo, founder of Stefanos Foundation; Ms. Fatima Njoku, lawyer for Stefanos Foundation; Mr. Mark Jacob, former Attorney General of Kaduna State, Nigeria; Mr. Solomon Musa, National President of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union; and Ms. Mirjam Bos, the Program Officer for Jubilee Campaign Netherlands.

This panel of experts discussed the alarming increase in militarization in North and Central Nigeria, that has resulted in the death of thousands of minority ethnic persons. The rising militia is made up of members of the Fulani ethnic tribe. Therefore, they are referred to as the Fulani militants. These militants have launched systematic attacks on farming communities that are predominately Christian. During their attacks, they kill villagers, raze homes, and destroy farmland. Many times, they then move in to occupy the attacked village. Over 4,000 people have been killed in the past three years. The panelists expressed their distress that the Nigerian government has taken little action to address the violence and has provided no support for its tens of thousands of victims. Mr. Lipdo described, “Most of the communities that have been burnt and people killed within them, there has never been any compensation done by the government, so the people are suffering. They have nowhere to sleep; they have no food because their farmlands have been burnt.”

Because the Nigerian government has proven unwilling to protect its citizens, the panelists appealed for outside support. “We keep complaining, government appears to be uninterested in what we are saying, and that is why one of the reasons we are here is to ask for intervention,” Mr. Jacob stated.

Those pleading for help have been rejected by the Nigerian government and have remained unheard by much of the international community. Jubilee Campaign is working to inform the international community and advocate for intervention.

Watch the press conference here.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council

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Jubilee Campaign addressed the UN Human Rights Council on March 6, 2017 by holding a side event at the Palais des Nations. This event was held to bring to the Council’s attention to the human rights violations that are occurring in Nigeria.

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It is imperative that the international community gets involved.
-Mirjam Bos, Jubilee Campaign

As we have previously reported, ethnic and religious minorities in North and Central Nigeria face many forms of discrimination. In recent years, this discrimination has escalated into violent attacks against vulnerable communities. This is due to a rising militancy associated with members of the Fulani ethnic tribe. The members who have become militarized have launched deadly attacks killing men, women including pregnant women, children, and the elderly. To the dismay of the of the thousands of victims, the Nigerian government has refused them adequate protection and support.

Jubilee Campaign, along with representatives from Nigeria, raised this issue and gave recommendations that the United Nations should take to intervene and prevent further destruction. Among these recommendations, we are requesting that the United Nations conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the atrocities perpetrated by the Fulani militants. Fatima Njoku of Stefanos Foundation stated, “This is not something that is beyond the Nigerian government if they are willing to do it, but if they are not willing to do it, there is international responsibility to protect.”

In addition to the side event, our delegation met with various UN offices to discuss what specific measures they could take to assist in addressing the violence. We will continue to correspond with the offices to provide further evidence and resources. We hope that through our collaboration, necessary action and an adequate international response will be given to bring justice and protection for the Nigerian people.

Pakistani Christians in Thailand – World Day of Social Justice 2017

World Day of Social Justice

This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.

Pakistani Christians in Thailand

This past week we discussed multiple accounts of persecution and discrimination of Christians in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the stories we shared are only a very small fraction of the incidents that have occurred over the years. While some incidents of persecution are noticed by NGO’s or Christian media, the reality is that the majority of incidents go unreported. However, incidents of persecution or the fear of persecution has caused thousands of Pakistani Christians to flee the country. In the story we shared this week of Talib Masih, we mentioned that he fled to Thailand.

Some estimate the number of Pakistani Christians seeking refuge in Bangkok, Thailand to be nearly 10,000. Bangkok has been the refuge of choice for many because of its UNHCR office and the UNHCR’s ability to resettle refugees to Western nations.

Unfortunately, the high influx of refugees has caused the understaffed UNHCR office to become backlogged. Refugees wait approximately 2 years for their Refugee Settlement Determination (RSD) interview. However, because the refugees use tourist visas to enter Thailand, their presence in Thailand is only legal for a short amount of time, usually only 30 days. The long wait for an interview has caused refugees to overstay their visa, thus making them vulnerable to arrest.

Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and therefore does not provide protection to refugees. If arrested, refugees are subject to unhygienic conditions in the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) and face high bail amounts. While in Thailand, refugees are forbidden from work, education, and health care, forcing refugees to rely on ministries, NGOs, and churches for even the most basic needs.

In addition to these obstacles, the UNHCR has been rejecting a high proportion of Christian Pakistani cases. Once rejected, the refugee may only appeal it once. If rejected again, they have to either decide to illegally stay in Thailand, or return to Pakistan where they could be risking their life. Jubilee Campaign is currently working to make sure that all the cases of Pakistani Christians are fairly evaluated by the UNHCR to ensure that legitimate claims are being recognized.

Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.

In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Asia Bibi and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!

We will also be sending a petition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on World Day of Social Justice asking him to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern. Please sign the petition and spread the word!

Also, if you are interested in helping Christian Pakistani refugees in Thailand, please consider making a donation. Jubilee Campaign currently supports an organization in Bangkok that provides refugee families with food and housing support.

Discrimination in Media – World Day of Social Justice 2017

World Day of Social Justice

This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.

Discrimination in Media

In October of 2016 the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) ordered a mass shutdown of Christian TV stations, stating that they were illegal. The shutdown affected 11 stations including Isaac TV and Catholic TV.

Technically, all religious stations are illegal as PERMA licenses are not issued for religious content, however, many Islamic channels exist with no trouble. Many operators at Christian stations feel discriminated against since their content was shut down and Islamic content was not. The ban purportedly leaves Christians in Pakistan without a media presence.

Christian media has a long history of being targeted in Pakistan, but usually from hard-liner Muslims. It is not unusual for individuals who air gospel music, scripture, or any Christian content over the air, on TV, or through Youtube to be threatened. Journalists in Pakistan are also at risk for reporting on Christian issues or stories that seem anti-Islamic.

The shutdown of the Christian channels comes shortly after a 16-year-old boy was accused of blasphemy and charged under Pakistan’s penal code for liking an inflammatory picture of an Islamic holy site on Facebook.

Following a court hearing where the judge announced that Nabeel Masih could face the death penalty, a mob demanded outside the court that the boy be hanged. Friends, family, and neighbors have fled the Christian village where the boy is from in fear of retaliation from surrounding Muslims.

Despite Pakistan being a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and guarantees the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, Pakistan continues to persecute and allow discrimination against its religious minorities.

Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.

In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Asia Bibi and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!

We will also be sending a petition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on World Day of Social Justice asking him to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern. Please sign the petition and spread the word!