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N. Korean Defectors Urge Switzerland to Freeze Pyongyang Assets

  • Lee Yeon Cheol

FILE - National flags of Switzerland fly over the entrance of the headquarters of Swiss bank Credit Suisse in Zurich July 31, 2014.

FILE - National flags of Switzerland fly over the entrance of the headquarters of Swiss bank Credit Suisse in Zurich July 31, 2014.

North Korean defectors have sent an open letter to Switzerland appealing for it to freeze the assets of the Kim Jong Un leadership.

“We have experienced and witnessed the gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights committed by the North Korean regime against its own people, which has been ongoing for many decades,” wrote 20 defectors residing in South Korea.

The authors include internationally-known human rights activists Kwang Cheol Hwan and Shin Dong Hyuk.

Kang Cheol Hwan served at Camp 15 along with all of his family members, after his grandfather was charged with treason. Shin Dong Hyuk was born in Camp 14 and witnessed the public executions of his mother and brother.

The open letter to the Swiss Confederation’s president, Didier Burkhalter, appealed for an immediate freeze on the North Korean leadership’s financial assets in Switzerland, claiming the Kim regime is “directly responsible for the crimes against their own people.”

The defectors made this claim based on findings of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea (COI).

The letter elaborated Switzerland has the moral responsibility to act on these findings because it played a leading role in the establishment and endorsement of the COI.

As a member of the Human Rights Council in 2013, Switzerland actively supported the resolution that created the commission of inquiry and was a sponsor of the resolution that formally adopted the commission’s report on in 2014.

The open letter also points out Switzerland has “every basis in law and prior precedent to act for the people of North Korea.” The country has frozen the assets of officials or former officials in Syria, Egypt and Libya.

The Geneva-based non-governmental organization U.N. Watch released the open letter last week also calling on the government in Bern to freeze the assets of North Korea's leadership.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Korean Service.

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