(Geneva) – North Korean escapees and criminal justice experts will offer a rare view of pervasive human rights violations in everyday life in North Korea during a side event at the United Nations Human Rights Council session this week, Human Rights Watch said today. These abuses against children, market vendors, and media freedoms are part of the pattern of widespread and systematic violations that demand UN response. Council member states should back justice for gross and systemic rights violations in North Korea by maintaining support for strengthening its field-based structure in Seoul, South Korea, with international criminal justice experts.
“The human rights situation in North Korea remains dire, with those responsible for abusive policies operating under a blanket of impunity,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The Human Rights Council needs to maintain a focus on the importance of accountability for the systematic, widespread, and gross rights abuses taking place in North Korea.”
On March 14, 2018, Human Rights Watch, People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE), and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) are co-organizing a panel discussion in Geneva focusing on child labor, media, markets, and accountability in North Korea. This event is taking place on the sidelines of the council’s 37th session. It follows the second presentation by Tomas Ojea Quintana, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, at the council on March 12.
The panel discussion will take place at 4 p.m. in room XXIV at the Palais des Nations. It will feature testimony by Dong Su Koo, a North Korean escapee who experienced child exploitation, and presentations by Nam Ba-da, secretary general at PSCORE, on a report on child labor in North Korea; Kim Young Il, executive director at PSCORE, on inflation and exploitation in North Korea under the latest sanctions; Kiri Kankhwende, public affairs leader at CSW, on their report Media, Markets and Mass Surveillance; and Singh on the need to ensure accountability in North Korea.
In his statement to the council, Quintana noted that “severe restrictions on all forms of free expression, movement and access to information continue to nurture fear of the state and leave people at the mercy of unaccountable public officials,” and highlighted the “need to pursue accountability” as a critical challenge for his mandate and the international community as a whole. Amid the international security concerns surrounding North Korea, he reiterated security cannot be a single track, “for there is no long-term peace and security in a climate of impunity and disregard of human rights.”
The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea found that the “gravity, scale and nature” of the human rights violations taking place in North Korea, many of which likely amount to crimes against humanity, were without “parallel in the contemporary world.”
“One of the Human Rights Council’s biggest tasks is to support efforts to preserve evidence of abuses so that those responsible for rights violations against North Koreans can one day be brought to justice,” said Singh.