(New York) – Today’s United Nations General Assembly resolution sends a strong message to the government of North Korea that its human rights record has made it a pariah on the global stage, Human Rights Watch said today.

Screenshot of the UN General Assembly vote on the resolution on North Korea on December 17, 2015.

119 countries voted on December 17, 2015, to pass a resolution condemning “long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights” in North Korea. The resolution comes a week after an important UN Security Council debate on December 10, in which several countries voiced support for a debate on referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Senior North Korean leaders have been put on notice: their crimes against humanity and gross human rights abuses are documented, and they will one day face justice,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director. “Most of the governments of the world agree that North Korea is a human rights catastrophe and that the time has come to address its crimes.”

Abuses highlighted in the December 17 resolution included torture, severe violations of the rights of women and rights of children, the “existence of an extensive system of political prison camps,” and “all-pervasive and severe restrictions on the freedoms of thought, conscience, religion or belief, opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association,” among many other violations. The resolution encourages the UN Security Council continue to consider referring North Korea to the ICC, and discuss imposing effective targeted sanctions against North Korea officials.

Senior North Korean leaders have been put on notice: their crimes against humanity and gross human rights abuses are documented, and they will one day face justice.

John Sifton

Asia Advocacy Director

The resolution on North Korea passed overwhelmingly, by a vote of 119 to 19, with 48 abstentions.

Sri Lanka, which last year opposed the resolution, backed it, and several states, such as Comoros, Gabon, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Togo – which abstained last year – also voted yes. The nineteen countries that voted against the resolution were Algeria, Bolivia, Burundi, Laos, Oman, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Syria, Sudan, Russia, Burma, Iran, Cuba, Belarus, Egypt, China, and North Korea.

In a disappointing turn, Senegal, president of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties, abstained from the resolution.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights has set up a special office in Seoul to continue to gather evidence and information about ongoing abuses and crimes against humanity in North Korea. Human Rights Watch called on the UN Security Council to continue to hold debates on North Korea and to invite senior UN human rights officials to brief them on developments in the coming year.

“The only way to ensure that justice is done some day is to keep the spotlight on the North Korea’s government and keep collecting evidence of their crimes,” said Sifton.