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UN to vote on North Korea's human rights record
Human rights groups have accused North Korea of systematic abuse of its people and of foreign nationals. The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to vote on the establishment of a commission to inquire into the secretive country's human rights record.
Kesha West


The United States and China have joined forces at the United Nations to impose new sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang's third nuclear test.
But it's not just North Korea's nuclear ambitions that are attracting international condemnation. The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to vote later this month on the establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into the country's human rights record.
Hundreds of families in Japan, who claim their family members were abducted by North Korea, say the true extent of Pyongyang's systematic abuse of its people and of foreign nationals has barely been uncovered.

Kesha West reports.
Transcript
KESHA WEST: Thirty-seven years ago, Takashi Fujita's oldest brother Susumu left for university one morning and never returned.

TAKASHI FUJITA (translation): He disappeared in 1976, back then he was a 19-year-old freshman at university.

He was a young man who dreamt of becoming a sports teacher.

KESHA WEST: For many years his family had no idea what had happened to him.

TAKASHI FUJITA (translation): Before he disappeared, he mentioned he was looking for a part-time job as a guardman, so I ended up contacting the companies in Tokyo and around Tokyo. I also asked the police to help me look for him but there was absolutely no sign of him.

KESHA WEST: His family are not the only ones in Japan to have lost a loved one.

(Pictures of disappeared Japanese citizens)

It's claimed that hundreds of Japanese citizens disappeared in the 70s and 80s, their families now believe they were abducted and taken to North Korea

In 2002, during a visit to Pyongyang by then Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, North Korea finally admitted to having kidnapped 13 Japanese nationals to teach its spies Japanese language and culture.

Only five were ever returned.

KEN KATO, DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS ASIA (translation): Thirteen people are only the tip of the iceberg. There are actually hundreds of abductees. Last year in December, the national police agency officially admitted that they're investigating 868 potential abductees.

KESHA WEST: Ken Kato is a Japanese human rights activist. He says despite mounting evidence of more abductions, the Japanese government too has only ever officially recognised 17 cases.

TAKASHI FUJITA (translation): I thought that my brother would be recognised right away but the Japanese government still this day is hesitating to act.

I really find this a great shame.

KESHA WEST: Mr Fujita became convinced his brother was one of those abducted after a North Korean defector brought with him a photo of a man he believes is his long-lost brother.

(Showing photograph of his missing brother and the photograph brought by the defector)

TAKASHI FUJITA (translation): This is the photograph of my brother just before he went missing and this is the photograph that came from North Korea.

It is not possible for these two photographs to belong to different individuals as it clearly shows three district identical features.

KESHA WEST: Last month, Japan announced it would back calls by human rights groups for a commission of inquiry into North Korea's human rights violations, including the abductions.

Kanae Doi from Human Rights Watch says an in-depth inquiry will also finally tell the true story of the decades of abuse by the North Korean government of its own people.

KANAE DOI, JAPAN DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The international community has been speaking about North Korea in terms of security, but human rights hasn't been a priority. So a commission of inquiry would shed light on the worst human rights situation in the world.

KEN KATO (translation): It's not well known within the international community, but there are 200,000 political prisoners in prison camp s. North Korea has a population of 2 million people. This incarceration rate is extremely alarming. Many people are continuing to die within these prison camps.

What is relatively well known is that, in the 90s, over 2 million people starved to death. This is actually a genocide.

KESHA WEST: In its human rights report last year, Amnesty International found there was evidence of the existence of numerous prison camps where arbitrary detention, forced labour and torture were rife. Executions, including public executions, persisted, as well as reports of staged traffic accidents. Collective punishment was also common.

(Footage of North Korean prison camps is shown)

North Korea denies the existence of these political prison camps but international support for a United Nations probe into human rights abuses in the country is mounting.

The 47 members of the UN's Human Rights Council will vote on the establishment of the commission before the end of the month.

KANAE DOI: We need to make a significant, in-depth inquiry so that for the world to understand the whole picture of what is happening in North Korea.

KESHA WEST: Takashi Fujita hopes the increased international attention will finally force answers from North Korea on the whereabouts of his brother.

TAKASHI FUJITA (translation): I would like to see him again and start our new lives together. By any means I want to realise this dream.
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