Dear Foreign Minister,
We are writing as the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), a global coalition of non-governmental organisations engaged in advocacy to address the very grave human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We were formed in September 2011 and draw together over forty organisations from across the world, including the world’s largest human rights organisations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Specifically, we strongly believe the time has come for the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in North Korea.
Recently, 179 former North Korean political prisoners and defectors, including survivors of severe human rights violations in North Korea, wrote to you to appeal for your government to support an international inquiry into crimes against humanity in the DPRK. We strongly support their request.
As you may know, on 3 October, 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Marzuki Darusman, presented his latest report to the UN General Assembly. In that report, he noted “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.” Accordingly, the Special Rapporteur “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 Special Rapporteur’s recommendation is very timely and we urge you to seriously consider his proposal, which is in line with the request by survivors of grave violations in North Korea. The time is long past due for prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial international investigation of the system of political prisoner camps known as gwa-li-so, in which gross violations of human rights, including torture, denial of medical care, dire living conditions, forced labour, sexual violence, and executions are widespread and systematic, have been extensively documented. Furthermore, North Korea has a documented record of abducting foreign nationals, with hundreds of Japanese, South Koreans, and persons of several other nationalities forcefully taken to North Korea.
While the international community has pressed for an end these systematic and pervasive human rights abuses, it is clear that those efforts have not been sufficient. Simply put, the government of North Korea has resolutely ignored international criticism and mass violations continue unabated. The time has come to end the culture of impunity in North Korea and hold the government of the DPRK accountable for these violations. An international, independent inquiry, mandated by the UN and supported by the UN Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is needed to investigate and further establish facts, and evaluate both new and existing evidence and allegations to ascertain if there are, prima facie, sufficient grounds to view those violations as crimes under international law, and make recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.
Such a Commission of Inquiry will complement and help strengthen the work being done by the UN special rapporteur by bringing more attention, experts, and resources to address the crimes against humanity that we believe are being committed in North Korea on a daily basis.
There is growing momentum for international action on North Korea demonstrated first by the adoption of the annual resolution on North Korea for the first time ever by consensus at the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012. And more recently, in November 2012 the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee (the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee) also adopted the annual North Korea resolution by consensus for the first time ever. While we recognize and appreciate the efforts that have led to increasing numbers of member states supporting the resolutions on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, culminating in the above-mentioned consensus adoptions of 2012, regrettably this has not led North Korea to change its repressive policies. Those resolutions have also not been able to elicit any appreciable change in North Korea’s wholly negative attitude towards the legitimate role of UN human rights mechanisms to work to ensure respect for human rights. Thus we believe a further mechanism of inquiry under UN auspices is fully warranted.
We hope your government will contribute to maintaining this momentum for accountability for human rights abuses in North Korea, and work with other governments in the UN to ensure that the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation is acted upon and a commission of inquiry can be established immediately.