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Human Rights Organizations Call for Action on North Korea on International Human Rights Day

Over 40 human rights organisations from around the world, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Freedom House, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), are marking the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by calling for international action to stop crimes against humanity perpetrated by North Korea’s dictatorship.

The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), which was launched in Tokyo on September 8, 2011, is campaigning for the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity in North Korea.

North Korea is widely recognised to have one of the worst human rights records in the world. As countries celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on International Human Rights Day on December 10, the ICNK calls on the international community to immediately investigate the widespread and systematic use of torture, arbitrary detention, abduction and public executions carried out by the North Korean government. An estimated 200,000 North Koreans are imprisoned in a system of prison camps characterized by dire conditions, extremely poor food rations, denial of medical care and regular use of torture.

“If International Human Rights Day and the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are to mean anything, the international community should take action to end impunity in North Korea,” said David Hawk, Visiting Scholar, Columbia University and author of The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps: Prisoners' Testimonies and Satellite Photographs. “The best possible way we can mark this important anniversary is by establishing an investigation into crimes against humanity in the world’s most closed nation, North Korea.”

The European Parliament called for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry in a resolution on July 8, 2010, and the former UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn, in his final report to the UN, demanded an “end to impunity”, describing North Korea’s human rights record as “harrowing and horrific,” “egregious and endemic,” “systematic and pervasive” and “in its own category”. He called on the international community to “mobilise the totality of the UN” to take action to protect human rights and ensure “responsibility and accountability for human rights violations”.

“The principles we celebrate in the International Human Rights Day tomorrow are universal. For that reason, tomorrow must be a day of action for North Korea, a day in which the world says to Kim Jong-il’s regime ‘enough,’” said Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea is long overdue, and action to end the misery in the prison camps is urgently needed.”

ICNK consists of human rights organisations from across Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America, including countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Paraguay, the Czech Republic, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

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