The international community was strongly urged today by a UN rights expert to maintain effective and meaningful efforts to address the continued dire human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
“This has been a year of intensified action, particularly in the follow up to the landmark Commission of Inquiry report on the human rights situation the DPRK, of which I was a member,” Marzuki Darusman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country, told reporters in New York, following a presentation to the Third Committee – the Organization’s main body dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.
“The commission concluded that a number of long-standing and ongoing patterns of systematic and widespread violations in the DPRK met the high threshold required for crimes against humanity in international law,” he continued, noting that since his last appearance before the General Assembly, numerous efforts have been undertaken to follow up on the findings and recommendations by the independent commission and other UN bodies.
Mr. Darusman also informed the press that he visited the new headquarters in Seoul of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and had “a very fruitful discussion” with the team. He said they have started implementing their mandate, to strengthen monitoring capacity and documentation recording of the human rights situation in the DPRK.
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council also convened an historic first of its kind panel discussion on the human rights situation in the DPRK last September, including on the issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances and related matters.
“I express deep regret that the human rights situation in the DPRK remains the same, despite the grave concerns constantly reiterated by the international community in different fora,” the expert stressed.
“I continue to receive numbers of reports regarding the precarious challenges of daily life in the DPRK, severe discrimination based on the songbun [people classification] system, summary executions in total disregard of due process and other international human rights standards […].”
He added that he also received reports about DPRK nationals who are sent abroad to work in many regions of the world, labouring under conditions that amount to a subjection to forced labour both by their own and the hosting governments.
“I further call on and urge the Government of the DPRK to immediately halt all the blatant human rights violations identified in my report to the General Assembly as well as in the report by the commission,” he insisted.
To that end, he said he firmly believes that the accountability track must be pursued urgently, in parallel with sustained efforts to seek engagement with the DPRK to ease the suffering of people. He further stated that he remains convinced that the Security Council should refer the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the commission of inquiry and subsequently encouraged by the General Assembly.
“I also regret that the DPRK have declined my repeated requests for meetings with delegates from the DPRK on the margin of the sessions of the Human Rights Council, lately extended again both in March and June 2015,” he expressed. “I also requested for a meeting this time in New York, but regrettably did not hear from the DPRK. I firmly believe in the practical value of straightforward dialogue and hope that the DPRK authorities will positively respond to my future requests to meet.”
He also requested the DPRK grant access to all UN human rights agencies, including the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to assist, assess and verify the implementation of such recommendations.
“I emphatically call upon the United Nations system as a whole to continue its efforts to address the grave human rights situation in the DPRK in a coordinated and unified manner, in line with the Secretary-General’s Human Rights Up Front strategy,” he underlined. “I also call upon Member States to continue ensuring that the Security Council hold regular briefings on the situation in the DPRK, to maintain its correlation with international security and constant visibility of the DPRK problem.”
Concluding his remarks, Mr. Darusman said he is encouraged by the recent union of separated families between the two the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, and urged that necessary arrangements for further reunions on a larger scale and a regular basis be undertaken without delay.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.