Families call for action over N.Korea abductees

11th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Families of people allegedly snatched by North Korea on Wednesday called on the international community to push Pyongyang to release their missing loved ones.

"Please put pressure on the government of North Korea to release the abductees," pleaded Teruaki Masumoto, who heads the Japanese Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea.

"Imagine the pain of the victims who are suffering in that country," Masumoto, whose sister Rumiko was abducted in 1978, told a conference hosted by Japan on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council.

A UN-mandated investigation issued a searing report in February describing a litany of rights abuses in North Korea, including the abductions of an estimated 200,000 foreign nationals.

Most of them were South Koreans left stranded after the 1950-1953 Korean War, but hundreds of others from around the world have since been taken or disappeared while visiting the secretive Stalinist state.

Citizens of at least 12 countries are believed to have been snatched along with an estimated 100 Japanese taken to train its spies in their language and customs, the report said.

"How was life for you for the past 41 years?" asked Tamaji Takeshita, whose sister Noriko Furukawa disappeared from Japan in 1973.

"You were able to choose your path", unlike the people "who have been robbed of the chance to live their lives", she told the conference through an interpreter.

Michael Kirby, who headed the UN inquiry, said the evidence of abductions and the "crimes against humanity which appear in our report cry out for action by the international community".

"We have reached a moment of truth for the United Nations," he said, urging the UN Security Council to refer Pyongyang's crimes to the International Criminal Court.

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. Five of the abductees returned home but Pyongyang said the eight others had died -- a claim Tokyo rejects.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July said Japan would lift some sanctions against North Korea after progress in talks over its Cold War kidnappings, but police are still investigating 883 other abductions.

Kim Joo Il, a defector from North Korea, said Pyongyang likely refused to acknowledge most of the kidnappings because they have already been executed, starved to death or been sent to prison camps.

US ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council Keith Harper said "we cannot and will not forget the suffering of these abducted individuals".

"We cannot and will not lose sight of the pain and deep anguish of their families," he added at the conference.

© 2014 AFP

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