U.N. point woman on rights of disabled to visit N. Korea next week

SEOUL, The United Nations' point woman on the rights of people with disabilities will visit North Korea next week to look into the situation in the first-ever visit by an independent U.N. expert to the isolated country, a U.N. office said Thursday.

Special Rapporteur Catalina Devandas-Aguilar will visit North Korea from May 3-8 at the invitation of its government, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement. Her special focus during the visit will be on the situation of children with disabilities, the office said.

It marks the first-ever visit to North Korea by an independent expert designated by the U.N. Human Rights Council, according to the statement.

"My upcoming visit to the DPRK represents a key opportunity to learn firsthand about national realities, laws, policies and programs concerning people with disabilities, as well as the challenges and opportunities the government faces in implementing the convention," the special rapporteur said, referring to the North's ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in December 2016.

During the six-day visit, she will meet with North Korean officials in charge of protecting the disabled, U.N. staff and North Koreans with disabilities in Pyongyang and South Hwanghae Province.

"I look forward to engaging with the government, humanitarian actors and people with disabilities to identify needs and practical approaches in order to formulate constructive recommendations that can contribute to enhancing protection for people with disabilities and compliance with the Convention," she noted.

She will hold a press conference on the last day of her visit at Koryo Hotel in the capital, the statement said.

The findings of her visit are likely to be reflected in her report to be submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2018.

Devandas-Aguilar was designated the first special rapporteur on the rights of people with disabilities in June 2014 by the council.

The current and former U.N. special rapporteurs on the North Korean human rights situation have also appealed for North Korea's permission to conduct on-site studies inside the country, but their requests were not answered.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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