European Response to China Holding Noguchi and Repatriating Refugees
group's secretary general, Mr. Hiroshi Kato, and Mr.
Sang Hun Kim, prominent South Korean human rights activist, returned
from Europe where they met with leaders of several institutions.
During their visit they met strongly positive responses, thanks
to direct help from Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Human Rights
Without Frontiers, who organized the meetings.
their return to Japan, Kato and Kim held a public briefing
in Tokyo on 22 February.
the briefing were journalists, LFNKR members and the
general public. Below is the text of LFNKR's statement.
Feb. 22, 2004
group, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR),
is deeply concerned because of new information received on Feb.
21. Our network in China informed us that two North Korean refugees
we have been working to free were transferred from Nanning prison
to Tumen, Jilin, in the border area between China and North Korea.
These two (the female in her 40's and the male in his 50's) were
arrested with Takayuki Noguchi back in December while he was trying
to help them.
North Korean embassy in Beijing is believed to have been
informed of their transfer to Tumen. In the past, North Korean
prisoners who are transferred to the detention center near the
border are likely to be repatriated within about a week.
we have been unable to confirm the transfer to Tumen,
the report came from sources that are usually accurate. If these
two North Korean refugees should be repatriated, they are very
likely to face extremely severe punishment, possibly even execution,
under charges of treason, spying, or the like since they are known
to have contacted LFNKR, which is a Japanese NGO.
has been working for the safe release of these two defectors
to a third country where they can claim their rightful refugee
status. The persons and organizations we have contacted include
the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japanese parliamentary
members, International Parliamentarians' Coalition of North Korean
Refugees and Human Rights (Masaharu Nakagawa, Secretary-General),
UNHCR (both the headquarters in Geneva and the Tokyo office),
as well as European NGOs and parliamentarians.
Kawaguchi, the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs,
and Yasuo Fukuda, Japan's chief government spokesman, have specifically
mentioned Noguchi's case, which led us to expect eventual success.
We find it difficult, however, to be optimistic in light of the
repatriation of seven North Korean refugees arrested with Mr.
Yamada, the representative of the Society to Help Returnees to
North Korea. Those seven were secretly repatriated despite appeals
to related organizations, including the Japanese government, in
attempts to prevent China from sending them back to North Korea.
Noguchi's mother and aunt visited him 17 January at Nanning
prison, no one has been allowed to visit, including the Japanese
consul. There is, therefore, no way to obtain information on Noguchi's
has repeatedly asked the Japanese Ministry of Foreign
Affairs to check whether the guards actually handed Noguchi the
clothing, books and cash his mother carried with her from Japan.
So far, no meaningful response has been received from the Ministry.
addition, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has
not announced its intention to accept the two Japan-born North
Korean defectors, even though they have relatives of Japanese
nationality. LFNKR is forced to interpret this as a lack of humanitarianism
and respect for human rights by the Japanese government and the
Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
attitude of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
contrasts sharply with the reactions Mr. Kato observed among the
people he contacted in the European Commission and European Parliament.
They earnestly listened to the reports on the plight of the North
Korean refugees and immediately expressed in the public their
determinations to address the issue to improve the situation.
has submitted sufficient data to UNHCR and made at least
three visits, including one to Mr. Ruud Lubbers in Geneva and
also at the Tokyo Office, to repeatedly request that they protect
the two North Korean defectors.
Kato spoke with Lubbers this time, all the High Commissioner
would promise was to mention Noguchi's case to the Chinese ambassador
are deeply distressed that UNHCR has not yet obtained
access to the refugees detained in Nanning. Again, LFNKR strongly
urges UNHCR to fulfill its legitimate charter as mandated under
the Convention on Refugees to protect the North Korean refugees
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees