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Interactive Dialogue with Marzuki Darusman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Mr. President, we would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for his report on the DPRK and call for the extension of the mandate.

Recently there was a leadership change in Pyongyang which saw the ascension of the Kim Jong Un. Yet human rights abuses continue to be systematic and pervasive, making North Korea one of the worst rights abusing governments in the world. 

Arbitrary arrest, detention, lack of due process, and torture and ill-treatment of detainees remain serious and endemic problems. Freedom of expression, religious belief, association, assembly and other civil and political rights are non-existent.

North Korea practices collective punishment for various anti-state offenses, for which it enslaves hundreds of thousands of citizens in prison camps, including children. These camps are notorious for abysmal living conditions and abuse, including severe food shortages, little or no medical care, continuous forced labor in dangerous conditions, lack of proper housing and clothes, mistreatment and torture by guards, and executions.

The Special Rapporteur is to be commended for his discovery of an “addendum to the Criminal Code for ordinary crimes” composed of 23 articles, of which 16 authorize use of the death penalty—including for non-violent crimes such as stealing or illicitly selling state property and currency counterfeiting—well beyond what has been previously claimed by the DPRK.

Mr. President, ever since the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, the government in Pyongyang has continuously refused to recognize this mandate and has never met with the Special Rapporteur, much less agreed to repeated requests for a visit to the country. The Council should strongly condemn this stance which is contrary to the spirit of cooperation of this body.

On February 1, in a note verbale issued by its Permanent Mission to the President of the Human Rights Council, the DPRK continued to brazenly defy the Council as it rejected the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, attacked the actions of the Council, and impugned the Special Rapporteur by questioning his independence and impartiality. The DPRK should cease its obstruction, and immediately and positively respond to the Special Rapporteur’s request to visit the country and to his communications. 

In what is unprecedented in the Universal Periodic Review process, the DPRK government refused to indicate what recommendations from other governments it was prepared to accept. Since then the silence of the DPRK on these recommendations has continued, indicating that the government is evidently not prepared to accept any of the recommendations made by fellow governments during the UPR process.            

Sadly, through its words and actions in front of this Council, the DPRK government continues to demonstrate its outright contempt for the international human rights conventions it has ratified, the work of the Council, and the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.  

Human Rights Watch believes that North Korea’s violations are so grave that it is time for the Council to seriously consider creation of an independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry to examine whether the DPRK government has committed crimes against humanity.   

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