Citing human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), senior United Nations officials today highlighted the need for the Security Council to pay attention to the situation “of great concern.”
“History teaches us that serious human rights violations are warning signs of instability and conflict,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said in a briefing requested by nine of the Council’s 15 members.
France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay had sent a letter to the Council President, seeking further information from the UN Secretariat on this situation and its implications for international peace and security.
“Abduction of foreign nationals, enforced disappearances and people fleeing desperate situations all demonstrate the links between human rights, humanitarian crisis and international peace and security,” Mr. Eliasson said.
He also said that the international community has collective responsibilities to protect the country’s population from the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, live up to the principle and norm of the Responsibility to Protect and consider the wider implications of the human rights situation for regional stability.
Last week, the Security Council adopted a resolution toughening its sanctions on the DPRK, aiming to step up pressure on the country to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
In the text, the Council “condemns the DPRK for pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles instead of the welfare of its people while people in the DPRK have great unmet needs, and emphasizes the necessity of the DPRK respecting and ensuring the welfare and inherent dignity of people in the DPRK.”
This was the first time the Council specifically requested the DPRK to respect and ensure the welfare and inherent dignity of people in its territory, Mr. Eliasson said, noting that about 70 per cent of the population of the DPRK, or 18 million people, are considered food insecure, a quarter has inadequate access to health services and a fifth lacks access to clean water and proper sanitation. Stunting is a rampant phenomenon among children.
In line with the “no one left behind” principle of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UN humanitarian and development support must be decoupled from geopolitical considerations, he stressed.
No improvement in ‘truly appalling’ situation
Also addressing the Council was Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, who provided more details on human rights violations in the DPRK.
“There has been no improvement in the truly appalling human rights violations in the country,” he said.
He noted that the Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in the DPRK found that numerous crimes against humanity were committed and ongoing, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.
He said that in the past 12 months, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has conducted more than 110 interviews with persons who had left the DPRK. A major issue that emerged was the treatment of people in the custody of law enforcement agencies. “All of those who had been detained stated that they were subject to, or witnessed, practices that clearly contravened international human rights standards,” he said.
The General Assembly has again in its resolution this year encouraged the Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of a referral of the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Improvement in human rights in the country will not only protect the livelihoods and dignity of people in DPRK but also promote long-term security and stability in the region and beyond, he said.
“Escalated security tensions, however, will further isolate the country and leave the DPRK population as usual to bear the terrible consequences, at yet further expense of their human rights,” he warned.