(New York) – The UN Security Council should hold another formal session to reiterate that North Korea’s abysmal human rights record remains a priority for the international community, nine human rights groups said today in a letter to UN Security Council members. The groups also stressed the importance of keeping the session open to the public and the media.
In December 2014, the UN Security Council added the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to its formal agenda. The addition followed a procedural vote where 11 of the council’s 15 members supported characterizing the widespread human rights violations in the country as a threat to international peace and security. In February 2014, a UN-mandated commission of inquiry (COI) found that the nature, scale, and gravity of the long-standing and ongoing systematic and widespread violations of human rights violations in North Korea “reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”
“Last year, the UN Security Council gave victims hope that the international community was willing to challenge the decades-long status quo of mass human suffering in North Korea,” said Param-Preet Singh, senior counsel in Human Rights Watch’s international justice program. “Another formal session would signal the Council’s growing impatience with Pyongyang’s deplorable policies that have led to crimes against humanity.”
The UN General Assembly is currently finalizing a resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea which, among other things, encourages the UN Security Council to continue its discussion of the country’s human rights record. The resolution also calls on the council to consider referral of the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), consistent with the COI’s recommendations. Since North Korea is not a party to the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, only the UN Security Council can refer the situation in North Korea to the ICC.
In recent reports to the UN General Assembly, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea and the UN secretary-general confirmed that the human rights situation remains dire. Both officials also stressed the importance of holding those responsible for grave abuses to account.
“The UN Security Council should speak up for North Korea’s countless victims given Pyongyang’s ongoing refusal to change its destructive policies,” said Singh. “After so many years of darkness, the council must keep the spotlight on North Korea’s deplorable human rights record.”