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February 16, 2016
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Dion:
Re: North Korea’s Sentencing and Detention of Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim
The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) is a national organization with regional chapters based in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Atlantic Canada. We are a diverse coalition of Pan-Asian Canadian legal professionals from across the country seeking to promote equity, justice, and opportunities for Asian Canadian legal professionals as well as the wider community. Next year, we will celebrate 10 years of being a strong and leading voice on diverse justice issues in the legal community.
FACL expresses its solidarity with other organizations and individuals calling for the Government of Canada to exhaust all political and diplomatic efforts to secure the release of Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim from prison in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“North Korea”).
On December 16, 2015, Mr. Lim was sentenced by a North Korean court to life in prison with hard labour for “crimes against the state”. The sentence came nearly a year after Mr. Lim had disappeared on his most recent mission to North Korea on January 31, 2015. According to CBC News, the charges against him included:
• Harming the dignity of the supreme leadership;
• Trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system;
• Disseminating negative propaganda about the North to the overseas Koreans;
• Helping U.S. and South Korean authorities to lure and abduct North Korean citizens, and aiding their programs to assist defectors from the North.
The charges, judgment and sentence were based in part on purported admissions made by Mr. Lim. There are obvious concerns surrounding the voluntariness of these admissions and whether they were the product of coercion, the international legality of the charges, the fairness of the judicial proceedings leading to Mr. Lim’s conviction and sentencing, as well as the disproportionately severe nature of his sentence.
We recognize the political sensitivities in engaging with the government of North Korea in dialogue, particularly as Canada has no official diplomatic representation in the country. However, we contend that it is squarely within this government’s interests to do everything it can to secure Mr. Lim’s release.
On October 19, 2015, this current Liberal government won its mandate based on a set of fundamental values that reflect how the majority of Canadians see their country – as a country of compassion, understanding, reason, humanitarianism, and international engagement. Above all, Canada is founded on the rule of law, and a system of independent and impartial justice.
Mr. Lim’s conviction and sentence strikes at the heart of all of these values. Despite harsh restrictions, Mr. Lim has made over a hundred visits to North Korea since 1997 to do missionary work, putting himself at enormous personal risk to engage with the North Korean people. His humanitarian projects helped build day care centres, elderly homes, and an elementary school. He spearheaded innumerable other projects over many years in a wide range of industries in order to help spur economic growth. It was precisely because of his compassion and courage that he was willing to accept the risks of providing assistance to the North Korean people.
FACL urges the Canadian government to repatriate Mr. Lim. Mr. Lim is not only a citizen of
Canada, but he also embodies the values that our country and this government hold dear: courage, compassion, humanitarianism, international engagement, and an indomitable will and spirit to create a better future.
If the Government of Canada fails to act for Mr. Lim, it will not only be leaving him behind, but it will also be leaving behind Canada’s most cherished values.
National President, Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers
Co-Chair, Advocacy Committee
Co-Chair, Advocacy Committee