Oral Statement Delivered Under Item 4
We would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for his efforts to secure the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry, for his important contributions to the inquiry, and for the follow up report which he has presented to the Human Rights Council today. The Special Rapporteur has reaffirmed the key findings and conclusions of the inquiry, namely that North Korea has committed and continues to commit crimes against humanity against the people of North Korea as well as foreign nationals that it has abducted and prevents from leaving the country. As noted by the Special Rapporteur – it’s the international community's responsibility to respond to these mass atrocities and the state of total impunity in North Korea. As recommended by the Commission of Inquiry and supported by this Council – Human Rights Watch believes that the case of North Korea should be referred by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another appropriate international justice mechanism.
The Commission of Inquiry’s report and its findings represent a critical turning point in the world’s understanding of the human rights situation in North Korea. When NGOs first started advocating for the establishment of a commission of inquiry on North Korea there wasn’t a single government willing to call for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Yet after the Commission of Inquiry exposed the full gamut of the abuses that have taken place over so many decades and continue today, the international community correctly reacted with horror and many governments were compelled to take a stance. After the publication of the Commission of Inquiry's report, Botswana broke diplomatic ties with North Korea, officially declaring that it "does not want to be associated with a Government that continues to display such total disregard for the rights of its citizens." During the presentation of the commission’s report, Chile stated that the UN must ensure that those most responsible for crimes against humanity are held to account and that independent impartial investigations must be carried out to that effect and the EU as a whole supported the Commission of Inquiry's recommendation that the Security Council refer the case of North Korea to the ICC. Today, more than half of the members of the UN Security Council have underscored the importance of accountability for the crimes documented in the report and favoured Security Council consideration of the options to that end.
Mr. President, the work to stop violations in the country and hold North Korea to account has only just begun. We urge those states that have supported stronger UN action, including by the Security Council, to join forces to continue to push for concrete additional steps by the UN: in particular for the UN Security Council to hold a formal discussion of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry and consider its recommendations regarding accountability and sanctions.
We urge the Human Rights Council and the Special Rapporteur to continue to pay attention to the victims and their stories. We welcome the establishment of an OHCHR field structure that can continue to document and raise awareness about the abuses suffered by North Korea survivors, alongside the Special Rapporteur. Lastly we call on the Human Rights Council to continue to support the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and to keep an eye on UN efforts to ensure that those most responsible for mass atrocities in North Korea are held to account.