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Joint ICNK statement regarding UN Special Rapporteur's call to consider inquiry into human rights violations in DPRK


The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) welcomes the latest report to the United Nations General Assembly by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Marzuki Darusman, released in New York on 3 October 2012. In particular, ICNK notes the Special Rapporteur’s reiteration of remarks made earlier in the year at a conference on North Korea in Washington, DC, and his statement stressed “that for several decades egregious human rights abuses in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have been extensively documented by various actors, including organizations of the United Nations system, and called on States and the international community to undertake a comprehensive review of the relevant documents to assess the underlying patterns and trends and consider setting up a more detailed mechanism of inquiry.”

The report dated 13 September 2012 describes the human rights, humanitarian and economic crisis facing the North Korean people, including the chronic food crisis. It also highlights the widespread as well as systematic nature of some of the human rights violations, which according to the UN Special Rapporteur “may amount to crimes against humanity”. In particular, the report highlights the discriminatory government’s policy of guilt by association, and calls for all those currently in detention under this policy to be released. It highlights the songbun or class structure imposed by the government on society, dividing North Korean people into ‘core’, ‘wavering’ and ‘hostile’ classes, and the restriction or denial of food, humanitarian aid, employment and education opportunities to those in the ‘wavering’ and ‘hostile’ classes. Furthermore, the report refers to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent statement “that his first, second and third priorities were to strengthen the military”, and notes that the DPRK constitution has been amended in June 2012 to declare the country a nuclear State. However, no further constitutional amendments have been made to “bring the constitution into alignment with international human rights instruments.”

The UN Special Rapporteur concludes that there were no indications of any improvement in the country's “dismal human rights record” after Kim Jong Un succeeded his father on 17 December 2011.

China’s policy of forcible repatriation, in violation of international standards of non-refoulement, was also highlighted, and the Special Rapporteur concluded that those fleeing North Korea, whether for economic or political reasons, may be considered under international law as refugees ‘sur place’.

The ICNK strongly supports the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that the international community should review credible evidence compiled over recent years by the United Nations and international non-governmental organisations, with a view to establishing a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said: “The Special Rapporteur’s report should leave member states of the UN in no doubt as to the gravity of the human rights crisis in North Korea. In every single aspect of life, North Korean people face brutal violations, whether the denial of food due to their political classification, imprisonment under guilt by association, or other severe abuses. The time has come for the UN to heed the Special Rapporteur’s advice, and review all the evidence, and then build a case for the establishment of a formal international investigation into crimes against humanity.”

Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, added: “The Special Rapporteur has made several valiant and persistent attempts to visit North Korea, but the government? has refused him access. Nevertheless, he has compiled a damning report, well supported by the testimonies of many North Koreans who have escaped from the country, and it is clear that an international inquiry is now long overdue. In the world’s most closed nation, there can be no hope of an end to impunity without international pressure, and so it is time for the United Nations to be true to its values and summon up the collective will to address perhaps the world’s gravest human rights situation as a matter of urgency.”

Rajiv Narayan, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International, stated: “The Special Rapporteur’s report is a timely reminder of North Korea’s terrible human rights record as North Koreans continue to suffer human violations of nearly the entire spectrum of their human rights. The UN member states should support the Special Rapporteur’s call to undertake a comprehensive review of the relevant documents and consider establishing a more detailed mechanism of inquiry, especially following up on his assessment that widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”

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