(Geneva) – The United Nations Human Rights Council should support the creation of a panel of experts to ensure accountability for rights abuses in North Korea when it takes up a resolution on the country next month, Human Rights Watch and 13 other groups said today in a joint letter to council member states, along with a briefing note addressing key questions about the proposed panel. The Human Rights Council is expected to consider forming a panel as part of a resolution on North Korea to be considered in March 2016.
“Simply calling out North Korea’s leaders for their rights abuses against their people is not enough,” said John Fisher, Geneva director. “The Human Rights Council should make it clear it stands with the victims of crimes against humanity committed in North Korea, and is prepared to pursue accountability and justice for as long as it takes.”
The panel of experts would be tasked with establishing a detailed plan that sets out how those responsible for human rights abuses in North Korea could be held accountable for their atrocities.
On September 8, 2015, Marzuki Darusman, the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea, used his most recent report to the UN General Assembly to call for the creation of a panel of experts to be named by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that would make concrete recommendations to advance accountability in North Korea.
Pressing for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) should remain an international priority. The Human Rights Council resolution should include a more comprehensive strategy that addresses the decades of impunity for rights crimes in North Korea.
A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in North Korea found that crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, rape, deliberate starvation, and enforced disappearances, have been committed “pursuant to policies at the highest level of the state.”
The commission stressed the importance of accountability for those responsible for grave abuses. The UN Security Council has recognized the gravity of the situation by addressing North Korea’s bleak human rights record as a formal agenda item on the Security Council two years in a row.
The UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have condemned the human rights situation in North Korea in previous resolutions and highlighted the need for accountability, including calls for the Security Council to consider referral to the ICC, consistent with the commission recommendations. However, China and Russia have stymied such a referral in their capacity as permanent members of the Security Council.
“By including in the resolution the call to create this panel of experts, the council will be paving the way to finally end decades of unchecked rights abuses in North Korea,” Fisher said. “The scale of the abuses, the needs of North Korea’s countless victims, and the council’s own credibility require nothing less.”