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DPR Korea human rights report elicits concern from senior UN officials

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

DPR Korea human rights report elicits concern from senior UN officials

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to engage with the international community improve its human rights record after a UN-mandated report catalogued crimes against humanity of an “unimaginable scale” being committed in the country.

Mr. Ban is seriously concerned about human rights and the humanitarian situation in the DPRK, his spokesperson said in a statement. As such, the Secretary-General remains “deeply disturbed” by the findings.

Noting that human rights are universal values, he “hopes the report will contribute to raising international awareness about grave violations of those values in [the country],” the statement said.

The UN chief also noted the independent nature of the Commission of Inquiry, which the Human Rights Council established in March 2013. He encouraged the DPRK authorities to engage with the international community to improve the rights situation and living conditions in the country, and “reaffirmed his strong commitment to help DPRK to that end.”

In a separate statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that since January 2013, she has urged the international community to put much more effort into tackling the human rights situation of people in DPRK.

“It has now published a historic report, which sheds light on violations of a terrifying scale, the gravity and nature of which – in the report’s own words – do not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

The report, released yesterday and which will be formally presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 17 March, documents crimes such as “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearance and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

In 400-pages, the Commission found that the DPRK “displays many attributes of a totalitarian State” and reports that the cited crimes against humanity are ongoing due to the “policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.”

In her reaction, Ms. Pillay suggested that the international community has paid “insufficient attention” to these human rights violations which have been ongoing.

“That has now been partly rectified,” she noted but called for strong international leadership to follow up on the Commission’s finding and “to use all the mechanisms at its disposal to ensure accountability, including referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

“It is vitally important to maintain the momentum on addressing the serious violations that this remarkable report documents in such a comprehensive manner,” Ms. Pillay added. “The spotlight on human rights in the DPRK should not be dimmed as the news headlines fade away.”

In addition to the report, the Commission included a copy of a letter sent to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, containing a summary of the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that “entail crimes against humanity.”

The letter states that the three-member panel would recommend referral of the situation in the DPRK to the ICC “to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for the crimes against humanity referred to in this letter and in the Commission's report.”