Cong. Rene L. Relampagos of the first district of Bohol stood up for North Korean Human rights in Seoul, South Korea last June 21-23, 2012 when he headed the four-member Philippine delegation to the 9th General Assembly of the International Parliamentarians’ Coalitions for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights (IPCNKR) represented by ten countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, El Salvador, Federated States of Micronesia, Japan, South Korea, Peru, Philippines, Poland and São Tomé and Príncipe.
In his presentation entitled, “Challenges on Improving Human Rights and Repatriation of North Korean Refugees in North Korea”, Relampagos expressed the Philippine legislature’s condemnation of grave violations to human rights such as imprisonment under sub-human conditions, torture, deprivation of basic humanitarian needs, and oppressive labor conditions which reportedly describe the current situation in North Korea (NK). He went on to describe the contribution of the Philippines in terms of extending help to North Korean refugees in the Philippines which started in the year 2000 and bolstered in 2007. He reported that as many as 500 refugees had travelled through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) annually before they headed off to South Korea, after departing originally from China. In lieu of the challenges NK is currently facing in terms of human rights violations, Relampagos urged NK Korea and its President, Mr. Kim Jong-un to honor its international treaty obligations as a member of the United Nations and as a State-party to the Conventions on Eliminations on Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). He also emphasized the call of the Philippine Legislature on the Governments of the Republic of South Korea and People’s Republic of China to adhere to the ideals and aspirations of the member-states of the United Nations, consistent with the universally-accepted principles of international law of jus cogens (compelling law) and pacta sunt servanda (Latin for ‘agreements must be kept’). He further exhorted both countries to acknowledge their responsibility to protect, under the principle that States have the paramount duty to protect their own peoples from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and that States are duty-bound to protect peoples from other States who are oppressed and dehumanized in their respective jurisdictions.
During his speech, Relampagos further emphasized the Philippines’ continuing support of maintaining international focus on ways in which North Korean people can be assisted. He closed his speech by saying that the Philippine delegation commits to work in cooperation with all the members of the IPCNKR to be able to have a fruitful discussion and a sound resolution on the crucial issues with concrete measures of protecting the universal value of the human rights of North Korean refugees.
On the 2nd day of the assembly, Relampagos as head of the Philippine delegation signed the 9th Joint Statement of the IPCNKR which resolves to: 1) Express grave concern about the continuing deterioration in the human rights situation in NK and about the systematic, widespread and serious infringements of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the North Korean people committed by the regime in order to exact absolute obedience and loyalty. 2) Call upon the NK regime to terminate the brutal beatings, torture, sexual violence and rape, forced labour, forced abortion, and public execution committed in its prison systems, and to respect human rights and fundamental freedom as universal values. 3) Express deep concern about the unresolved cases of abduction planned and executed by the NK regime, and demand NK to reveal their status and expedite their return, recalling that Kim Jong-Il admitted to kidnapping and returned five Japanese nationals in 2002. 4) Recognize that the North Koreans who leave their country for economic reasons can become refugees sur place as they potentially face arrest, detention, beatings, sexual violence, forced labour, forced abortion, torture and in some cases, death upon their repatriation. 5) Urge the Chinese government as a signatory to suspend arrest and forcible repatriation of North Koreans, especially children, and to provide them with appropriate assistance and protection. 6. Call upon all countries in which the North Korean people are seeking refuge or through which they transit, to treat them humanely and ensure their safe transit to the Republic of Korea, considering them as the nationals of the Republic of Korea. 7) Recommend the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees dispatch a coordinator in order to examine the situations of NK refugees in China and to investigate the human rights abuses against them in the course of arrest and repatriation. 8 ) Recommend the members of the IPCNKR to facilitate the enactment of a North Korean Human Rights Act or adopt a resolution on NK Human Rights in their respective legislature. 9) Request the members of the IPCNKR with NGOs which assist stateless children and trafficked women of NK living in other countries including China. 10) Bring the 9 th Joint Statement of the IPCNKR to the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and call for the establishment of an International Commission of Inquiry on NK in an effort to end the on-going tragedies of North Koreans.
Relampagos was joined in the signing of this joint statement by the members of the Philippine delegation: Cong. Maximo Rodriguez of Abante Mindanao Party List, Cong. Mariano Piamonte of A Teacher Party List and Cong. Victorino Dennis Socrates, second district representative of Palawan; and Korea’s Chairman Hwang, Woo Yea of the ruling Saenuri Party.
Author: Jill Christianae A. Rendon