HRNK Latin America Travelogue: São Paulo, Brazil

Greg Scarlatoiu
Executive Director, HRNK


From April 17 to 19, I visited São Paulo, Brazil, the first of three South American destinations in a week-long speaking tour organized by South Korea’s National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC) aimed at informing ethnic Koreans about the human rights situation in North Korea. The event in São Paulo brought together about 100 participants, ranging from young second-generation ethnic Koreans in their 20s to Korean War veterans.

Upon arriving in Brazil, I was warmly greeted and looked after by a Korean community that has preserved its traditional values while also embracing the local culture. As a naturalized American who grew up in Romania and spent a decade in South Korea, I decidedly felt at home. The streets and the people reminded me of Romania. Having dinner and a great conversation about soccer, gymnastics, the Cold War, history, Romania, Brazilian politics and the two Koreas over wine until midnight reminded me more of Bucharest than Seoul.

Although my gracious hosts were extraordinarily knowledgeable guides, I barely needed any explanation. I was very much aware of what was going on, regardless of whatever I saw. For example, there is no “inheritance tax” in Brazil. The children inherit one hundred percent of the parents’ fortune. Many of the rich stay rich, and many of the poor stay poor. On the other hand, taxation is harsh and it is the fewer haves who must bear the brunt of it, supporting the many have-nots. But progress is also surely possible in Brazil. The Korean community here is testament to the possibility of fulfilling one's dreams here. The first Korean immigrants arrived in Brazil almost empty-handed in 1965, but through entrepreneurship and hard work they have prospered.. And yet, the happiness index is through the roof! There is a truly unique lifestyle and approach towards life and happiness. People seem content with whatever amount they have in their pockets, rather than despairing over the opportunities they will never have. Korean Brazilians told me about the good and the bad, but there was absolutely no sign of any grievances in their description of their adoptive home. Rather, they think that shortcomings in Brazilian society have created great opportunities for them and their employees. After my presentation, I read an excerpt from the Portuguese language monthly magazine of the Korean community here. Then, I read the Romanian translation. Everybody understood!

The Inaugural Fred Iklé Lecture Featuring Justice Michael Kirby and Roberta Cohen

CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

WASHINGTON D.C.

FEBRUARY 19, 2016

NORTH KOREA: THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND SECURITY NEXUS

INAUGURAL FRED IKLÉ MEMORIAL LECTURE


INTRODUCTION TO THE INAUGURAL FRED IKLÉ LECTURE
By Roberta Cohen, Co-Chair Emeritus, HRNK

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the first Fred Iklé Lecture sponsored by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK). This lecture is to become an annual HRNK event to honor Fred Iklé as principal founder and intellectual architect of our organization and its first chair. When HRNK was established in 2001, Dr. Iklé was well known as a defense and foreign policy specialist and a nuclear strategist. But what was not so well known was his passionate interest in promoting democracy and human rights in countries where people were closed off from their basic freedoms–in particular North Korea. He was one of the first to recognize that because North Korea was so isolated, a research and advocacy organization was needed to document the human rights situation and draw international attention to it. As Chair, he kept HRNK focused and steered a tight ship. HRNK went on to produce groundbreaking reports on North Korea’s prison camps, the plight of refugees, and the devastating famine. He saw the linkage between human rights deprivation and peace and security, which was recalled in a eulogy by NED President Carl Gershman, another distinguished co-founder of HRNK. 

English Translation of South Korea's North Korean Human Rights Act


North Korean Human Rights Act
Law No. 14070
Enacted: Mar. 3, 2016, Entry into force: Sept. 4, 2016

Article 1 (Purpose)
The purpose of this Act is to contribute to the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights by pursuing the rights to life and liberty as defined in international human rights treaties, including the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 2 (Basic Principles and Responsibilities of the State)
(1) The State shall acknowledge that the North Korean people have the right to human dignity and to pursue happiness, and shall endeavor to promote the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights.
(2) The State, while promoting the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights, shall also endeavor to develop inter-Korean relations and work towards peace on the Korean Peninsula.
(3) The State shall consistently provide sufficient financial resources to promote the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights.

Article 3 (Definitions)
The term “North Korean,” as used in this Act, means persons who reside in the area north of the Military Demarcation Line, and have formed the basis of their livelihood—including immediate family members, spouses, or workplace—in that area.

Article 4 (Relationships with other Acts)
In endeavoring to promote the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights, this Act shall apply except in cases where there are special provisions in the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act, Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund Act, and Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act.

Article 5 (North Korean Human Rights Advisory Committee)
(1) The North Korean Human Rights Advisory Committee (hereafter “the Committee”) shall be established under the Ministry of Unification for the purpose of deliberating on policies to promote North Koreans’ human rights.
(2) The Committee shall be composed of ten or fewer members recommended by the National Assembly, and the chairperson shall be elected by and from the members. In selecting the Committee members, the negotiating body of the current or former party of the incumbent President shall recommend one half of the members, and the negotiating bodies of other parties shall recommend one half of the members. Committee members shall be commissioned by the Minister of Unification.
(3) Necessary matters concerning the composition and management of the Committee shall be prescribed by Presidential Decree.

Article 6 (Basic Plan for the Promotion of North Koreans’ Human Rights and Implementation Plan)
(1) The Minister of Unification shall formulate a basic plan to promote the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights (hereafter “basic plan”) every three years in consultation with the head of relevant central administrative agencies and the Committee. A basic plan shall include the following matters.
  1. Research on human rights conditions in North Korea 
  2. Measures to protect and improve North Koreans’ human rights, including, but not limited to, inter-Korean human rights dialogue and humanitarian assistance 
  3. Other matters deemed necessary for protecting and improving North Koreans’ human rights, as determined by Presidential Decree 
(2) In accordance with the basic plan, the Minister of Unification shall formulate every year an implementation plan (hereafter referred to as “implementation plan”) in consultation with the Committee.
(3) Once the basic plan and implementation plan have been formulated, the Minister of Unification shall inform the National Assembly without delay.

Article 7 (Promoting Inter-Korean Human Rights Dialogue)
(1) The Government shall pursue inter-Korean human rights dialogue regarding important matters in promoting the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights.
(2) Necessary matters regarding the appointment of the representatives participating in inter-Korean human rights dialogue shall be governed by Article 15 of the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act, with the necessary modifications.
(3) Other necessary matters in pursuing inter-Korean human rights dialogue shall be prescribed by Presidential Decree.

Article 8 (Humanitarian Assistance)
(1) The State shall observe the following matters when providing humanitarian assistance to the North Korean authorities and North Korean agencies for the purpose of promoting the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights.
  1. The distribution of assistance shall be conducted transparently and in compliance with internationally recognized standards. 
  2. The most vulnerable groups, including children and pregnant women, shall be prioritized in the provision of assistance. 
(2) The State shall endeavor to ensure that humanitarian assistance delivered by private organizations observes the conditions stated in the sub-clauses of clause (1).

Article 9 (International Cooperation to Promote North Korean Human Rights)
(1) The State shall cooperate with foreign governments, international institutions, international organizations, and other entities with regards to people-to-people exchanges and information sharing in promoting the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights, and shall endeavor to raise international attention towards promoting human rights in North Korea.
(2) In accordance with clause (1), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may appoint an Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights in North Korea (hereafter “Ambassador for International Cooperation on North Korean Human Rights”) to promote international cooperation for promoting human rights in North Korea.
(3) Necessary matters concerning the Ambassador for International Cooperation on North Korean Human Rights, including duties and qualifications, shall be prescribed by Presidential Decree.

Article 10 (Establishment of North Korean Human Rights Foundation)
(1) The Government shall establish the North Korean Human Rights Foundation (hereafter “the Foundation”) to investigate human rights conditions in North Korea, and to conduct research and develop policies on matters related to promoting the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights, including inter-Korean human rights dialogue and humanitarian assistance.
(2) The Foundation shall be an incorporated body, and it shall be duly formed once it is registered at the physical location of its main office.
(3) The Foundation shall conduct the following projects, and each project may be managed by a specialized body.

1. Projects to promote the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights, including inter-Korean human rights dialogue:
A. Investigation and research on human rights conditions in North Korea
B. Formulating and recommending policy options for the Government on issues including inter-Korean human rights dialogue
C. Other projects reviewed by the Committee and assigned by the Minister of Unification
D. Providing support to civic society organizations necessary for conducting the above projects

2. Projects to promote the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights, including humanitarian assistance:
A. Investigation and research on the need for humanitarian assistance in North Korea
B. Formulating and recommending policy options for the Government regarding humanitarian assistance to North Korea
C. Other projects reviewed by the Committee and assigned by the Minister of Unification
D. Providing support to civic society organizations necessary for conducting the above projects

(4) Other necessary matters concerning the establishment of the Foundation shall be prescribed by Presidential Decree.

Article 11 (Operation of the Foundation)
(1) Funds for the Foundation’s operation shall be drawn from the following.
  1. Contributions by the government
  2. Other income
(2) The Foundation may accept voluntarily donations with the approval of the Minister of Unification, provided that such donations are used for purposes within the scope of the Foundation’s activities, notwithstanding the provisions under Article 5.2 of the Act on the Collection and Use of Donations.
(3) The Minister of Unification shall manage and supervise the Foundation.
(4) If deemed necessary for the Foundation to achieve its objectives, the Minister of Unification may request the heads of relevant agencies to send to the Foundation public officials belonging to such agencies.
(5) Unless otherwise prescribed by this Act, the provisions of the Civil Code concerning incorporated foundations shall apply in regard to the Foundation, with the necessary modifications.
(6) Other necessary matters concerning the management and supervision of the Foundation and the process for accepting donations shall be prescribed by Presidential Decree.

Article 12 (Composition of Foundation Board Members)
(1) The Foundation shall have not more than twelve board members, including a president. The board shall be composed of individuals recommended by the National Assembly, including two board members recommended by the Minister of Unification. In recommending the board members, the negotiating body of the current or former party of the incumbent President shall recommend one half of the members, and the negotiating bodies of other parties shall recommend one half of the members. The board members shall be appointed by the Minister of Unification.
(2) With the exception of the president and other full-time members as designated by the articles of association, the board members will serve in a part-time capacity.
(3) The president shall be elected from among the board members. The term for the president and the executives shall be three years, and all board members may be re-appointed once. The term of ex officio board members shall be the term of their office.
(4) Other necessary matters concerning the selection of board members for the Foundation shall be prescribed by Presidential Decree.

Article 13 (Database Archive for North Korean Human Rights)
(1) The Ministry of Unification shall establish the Database Archive (hereafter “the Archive”) for North Korean Human Rights to collect and record information related to human rights conditions in North Korea and promoting the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights.
(2) The Archive shall conduct the following activities and collect, research, document, and publish information and other materials.
  1. Matters related to investigating and researching the human rights situation of the North Korean people
  2. Matters related to South Korean prisoners of war, abducted South Korean citizens, , and separated families
  3. Other matters as reviewed by the Committee and deemed necessary by the Minister of Unification
(3) The activities listed under clause (2) may be entrusted to external institutions. For this purpose, financial support may be provided within the scope of the budget.
(4) The Archive shall have a director appointed or commissioned by the Minister of Unification. The director shall be chosen from among senior government officials or civilian experts who have extensive knowledge and experience in the area of human rights in North Korea.
(5) The materials collected and documented by the Archive shall be transferred every three months to the Ministry of Justice, under which a specialized body shall be established for the purpose of preserving and managing such records.
(6) Other necessary matters concerning the composition and management of the Archive shall be prescribed by Presidential Decree.

Article 14 (Cooperation with Relevant Institutions)
(1) In conducting tasks that aim to promote the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights, the Minister of Unification may, as deemed necessary, request administrative agencies, public institutions, and relevant individuals to submit information, provide testimony, and provide other forms of cooperation necessary to policy implementation.
(2) The heads of administrative agencies or public institutions and relevant individuals shall, upon receiving requests under clause (1), comply with such requests in the absence of any specific reasons to the contrary.
(3) The heads of relevant central administrative agencies and local governments who seek to enact or amend an Act or ordinance related to the activities proscribed under this Act shall notify the Minister of Unification thereof.

Article 15 (National Assembly Report)
(1) In addition to the basic plan and implementation plan, the Minister of Unification shall give an annual report to the National Assembly before the beginning of the regular session regarding the following matters.
  1. Human rights conditions in North Korea
  2. Degree of progress and results pertaining to efforts to promote the protection and improvement of North Koreans’ human rights
  3. Formulation of plans regarding South Korean prisoners of war, abducted South Korean citizens, and separated families, and degree of progress in the implementation of such plans
  4. Evaluation of projects referred to in sub-clauses 1 to 3, as conducted by the government, central administrative agencies, and local governments
  5. Other matters as deemed relevant by the Minister of Unification
(2) In relation to reports referred to in clause (1), the National Assembly may, when deemed necessary, request rectification or improvement.

Article 16 (Application of Penal Provisions relating to Public Officials)
In the performance of their duties, the executives and staff members of the Foundation may be considered public officials subject to Article 127 and Articles 129 through 132 of the Criminal Code.

Article 17 (Penalty Provisions)
Any person who receives financial support under this Act by fraudulent or other illegal means shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than three years or by a fine not exceeding thirty million won.


Addenda (No. 14070, March 3, 2016)


Article 1 (Entry into force)
This Act shall enter into force six months after the date of its promulgation.

Article 2 (Preparation for Establishment of the Foundation)
(1) The Ministry of Unification shall appoint a founding committee of not more than seven individuals within thirty days of the promulgation of this Act, so that they may execute tasks related to the establishment of the Foundation.
(2) The founding committee shall prepare the articles of association of the Foundation and obtain authorization from the Minister of Unification. Once this authorization has been received, the founding committee shall complete without delay the registration of the Foundation through joint signatures.
(3) As soon as the registration has been completed, the founding committee shall hand over its affairs without delay to the president of the Foundation, and thereafter, the members of the founding committee shall be deemed to have been released from commission.
(4) Expenses incurred in relation to establishing the Foundation shall be borne by the State.


Translated by Hyebin Jeon, HRNK Research Intern

Edited by Raymond Ha, HRNK Office Manager and Outreach Coordinator

The Special Rapporteur on DPRK Ends his Term with Calls for Group of Experts on Accountability


By Christine Chung

Christine Chung is a Senior Advisor to the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and the former Political Advisor to the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. As a human rights officer for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she managed the Office's technical cooperation program with China, supported the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and served desk functions for Northeast and Southeast Asia. Before joining the UN, Ms. Chung established and headed the China field office for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. She is currently advising the Leiden Asia Centre on its investigation of forced labor practices involving North Koreans in the European Union.


On Monday, Marzuki Darusman, the current Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), participated in his final interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Approaching the limit of two terms, the former Indonesian Attorney General looked back on achievements during his incumbency of the mandate in a 10-minute opening statement. At the start of his first term six years ago, he noted, there was skepticism that the international community could go any further than passing annual resolutions on the human rights situation in North Korea. However, the previous mandate-holder, Thai law professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, had suggested at the end of his term that there was a need for a commission of inquiry for a deeper investigation into the subject. While it took four more years for its establishment through the consensus of the Human Rights Council, the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK (COI) in 2014 delivered definitive findings to focus “unprecedented concern” on the dire situation of human rights. Mr. Darusman argued that the COI, by establishing that crimes against humanity had taken place and were currently being committed, had helped to “re-profile” North Korea within the United Nations system raising its human rights problems to the highest political level and aligning them with concerns about peace and security.

The Special Rapporteur emphasized that the human rights situation in North Korea has not changed at all in the past two years: political prison camps still operate; authorities still carry out torture with impunity; religious believers are still subject to persecution; food insecurity remains rife despite the emergence of markets; slave-like organizing of labor continues while workers are sent abroad to have their earnings confiscated by the state; and victims of kidnapping have not yet been accounted for.

Alluding to recent North Korean ballistic and nuclear provocations, he characterized the country’s external aggression as the flip side of the same coin that expresses itself internally in brutal suppression of human rights. He also noted that workers sent abroad to earn foreign exchange for the regime were subject to “severe labor conditions.” While there has been increasing talk of the need for a peace treaty to resolve the situation on the peninsula, the Special Rapporteur emphasized that accountability must be part of any discussion on unification. The question is not whether there should be accountability, he said, but when and how this will be done. And it is both a Korean and international challenge.

Given North Korea’s highly hierarchical structure, the principle of command and superior responsibility under international criminal law points to the individual culpability of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. The Special Rapporteur explicitly named the North Korean leader twice in this context. Mr. Darusman said Kim Jong-un should be tried in a court of law while recalling that the COI had made the recommendation that the Security Council refer the North Korean situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). He also noted the possibility for universal jurisdiction whereby a third country could undertake judicial proceedings regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators or victims or whether the alleged crimes occurred within its territory. The Special Rapporteur concluded his statement by repeating his recommendation that a three-member group of experts be established to investigate plausible measures to ensure accountability in North Korea.

Following procedure, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council H.E. Mr. Ramón Alberto Morales Quijano (from the Republic of Panama), who was chairing the session, gave the floor to the delegation of the concerned state. As the North Korean delegation was not present, he proceeded to call on the representatives of member states in order of their inscription—activated electronically for one minute at the start of the session. The first to speak was Deputy Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to the UN in Geneva Dominic Porter who, noting that the COI had presented a major turning point, supported Security Council referral of the North Korean human rights situation to the ICC, encouraged the DPRK to engage with the Special Rapporteur and the field-based structure of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Seoul, and explained that the DPRK resolution would call for extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Other EU states aligned themselves with the EU statement, including the Republic of Estonia, Ireland, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Portuguese Republic, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, the Slovak Republic, the Republic of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Spain, and the French Republic.

The Russian Federation condemned the Special Rapporteur in a particularly harsh statement. Russian representative Dmitry Vorobyev said the usual thanks to the mandate holder are not warranted as he had politicized the process in a non-professional way instead of seeking a normal respectful dialogue. He accused the Special Rapporteur of flagrantly violating the code of conduct for Special Procedures mandate holders by openly calling for regime change. Vorobyev questioned the Special Rapporteur’s suitability for holding the post alleging that he had undermined the whole system. Nevertheless, the representative conceded that Pyongyang has problems with its human rights, but “whipping up confrontation” would not help. In contrast, the United States of America, represented by Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Ambassador Robert King, commended the Special Rapporteur’s outstanding accomplishments, expressed disappointment over North Korea’s lack of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, and noted that the United States is committed to working closely with the international community on improving human rights in North Korea. Other supportive states included the Commonwealth of Australia, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Botswana, New Zealand, and the Republic of Albania.

Given its own history with country-specific mandates, the Republic of Cuba (Cuba) objected to what it described as the “selective and politically motivated” mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Cuba’s representative noted there was no genuine intent to contribute to dialogue and disparaged the establishment of new monitoring mechanisms outside the work of the Human Rights Council. Highlighting the punishment and sanctions imposed on North Korea which deny it the right to peace and development, Cuba’s representative said her country would never support actions to bring about regime change. She said that the best support could be provided through mechanisms of cooperation such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that provide a venue for non-politicized debate. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s representative echoed Cuba’s position calling for dialogue and cooperation while noting that human rights should not be used for political ends and that unilateral coercive measures have negative effects on the civilian population. The Republic of Sudan’s representative emphasized that cooperation with the country was essential, recalling that the DPRK’s second UPR was encouraging as the country had accepted a number of recommendations. The Republic of Belarus’s representative expressed doubts about the establishment of another group of experts above other mechanisms without the consent of the DPRK. The Lao People's Democratic Republic’s representative stated his firm belief in the UPR as the most constructive dialogue forum for any country and took note of the DPRK’s participation in the UPR and high-level segments. The Syrian Arab Republic’s representative claimed that dual standards are in play and that the selective approach to North Korea undermines the Human Rights Council. He said that calling for the dismantling of the power structure violates the principles of the UN and that those who wish to see a change in government are dictating the extension of the mandate. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela called for reconsideration of country-specific mandates.

Of the three states most directly impacted by North Korea, Japan, represented by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Geneva Junichi Ihara, noting the escalation of provocative actions by North Korea, said that Security Council Resolution 2270 reflects strong international concerns about human rights and the humanitarian situation in the DPRK. He expressed support for the group of three experts idea proposed by the Special Rapporteur and noted its inclusion in the draft resolution co-sponsored by Japan and the EU. The People’s Republic of China’s representative Wang Yi reiterated that equality and mutual respect should be the grounds for engagement with the DPRK. She said that the root cause of the problems was the lack of political trust, a lingering effect of the Cold War, which necessitated negotiating a pathway away from the armistice through dialogue and cooperation. Furthermore, she regretted what she called “inaccuracies” about China in the Special Rapporteur’s report noting that China’s goal has been denuclearization of the peninsula and safeguarding its legitimate security concerns. Representative Wang Yi repeated the Chinese official position that North Koreans in China are not refugees but illegal aliens. She further stated that China has always adhered to Chinese, international, and refugee laws. The Republic of Korea (ROK) expressed full support for the Special Rapporteur and the OHCHR field office in Seoul. ROK Ambassador for Human Rights Jung-Hoon Lee regretted that the DPRK is boycotting Human Rights Council sessions and remarked that if conditions in North Korea are what the government claims, there would be no reason not to unconditionally invite the Special Rapporteur to visit. He also called on all states to respect the principle of non-refoulement.

After interventions by member states, national human rights institutions and nongovernmental organizations got their turn to speak. Human Rights Watch noted the importance of pursuing justice not just for past human rights violations (or “atrocities”) but for sending a message to officials that further abuses now would subject them to prosecution in the future. UN Watch was represented by Gayoung Kim of NK Watch, who detailed ongoing human rights violations of women, including sexual harassment by agents, particularly targeting victims in their 20s. Amnesty International focused on violations of freedom of expression, tightening of border security, and an increase in surveillance. People for Successful Corean Reunification highlighted the situation of North Korean workers overseas whose earnings get confiscated, thus forcing them to engage in illegal activities to survive.

Vice-President Quijano noted the country concerned had the right of reply. However, as its representative was not in the room, he proceeded to give the floor to the Special Rapporteur for his closing remarks. Mr. Darusman noted that the work of the past six years was a collective effort and that it was conducted on behalf of the 30,000 citizens of North Korea who have escaped and for those who remain. We are at the tail end of 15 years of work started by the international community, he said. The COI merely compiled available information, while it was entirely up to the DPRK government to present its side of the story. The Special Rapporteur argued that the international community has always adopted a two-track approach to engage and pursue accountability at the same time. Two years since the COI presented its report nothing has happened in the DPRK, he repeated. As the international community cannot allow an open-ended process, he urged that an accountability mechanism be put in place. A group of experts should not duplicate the work of the COI or the OHCHR field office in Seoul but would be a fundamental next step for accountability. He closed by saying he trusted the Human Rights Council to “see this matter through.”

Discussions on the North Korea resolution are currently going forward. According to Ambassador Ihara, Japan and the EU intend to include support for the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation for a group of experts on accountability in the draft resolution. A new human rights investigation body, coupled with the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, would keep up institutional pressure on Pyongyang.

Side events that followed the interactive dialogue focused on forced labor by North Koreans both inside and outside the country and human rights violations against women and persons with disabilities. These two informal panels reflected increasing interest in these specific areas of concern. Certainly, North Korean women experience many additional levels of vulnerability and abuse ranging from pervasive discrimination to severe gender-based violence. In many respects, there has not been sufficient attention to the gender dimensions of the human rights situation in North Korea. It is symptomatic that trafficking of North Korean women in China, given its likely scale and scope, has not received the level of scrutiny the situation warrants. On persons with disabilities, the COI desperately sought to find one glimmer of hope in an otherwise grim portrait of human rights inside North Korea and found it in the DPRK’s signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Nevertheless, regardless of whether Pyongyang takes the next step of ratifying the treaty, North Korea’s lack of compliance with the other four human rights treaties that it is already a state party to indicates that this may not be real progress in the intentions of North Korean authorities. After all, Pyongyang is unlikely to suddenly respect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. Meanwhile, several organizations have started examining North Korea’s practice of dispatching labor abroad under what appears to be conditions of forced labor. This approach has the advantage of overcoming some barriers of accessibility and of dealing with states that are more serious about implementing applicable labor and human rights laws. In these and various other ways, civil society promises to continue to do its part in advocating for improving the lives of North Koreans.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Draft resolution

A/HRC/31/L.25
Received from (main sponsors): Japan and EU
Date and Time: 16/03/2016 1259-1

Human Rights Council
Thirty-first session
Agenda item 4
Human rights situations that require the Council's attention


Situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

The Human Rights Council,

Guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other human rights instruments,

Recalling all previous resolutions adopted by the Commission on Human Rights, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including Council resolution 28/22 of 27 March 2015 and Assembly resolution 70/172 of 17 December 2015, and urging the implementation of those resolutions,

Bearing in mind paragraph 3 of General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006,
Recalling its resolutions 5/1, on institution-building of the Human Rights Council, and 5/2, on the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the Council, of 18 June 2007, and stressing that the mandate holder shall discharge his/her duties in accordance with those resolutions and annexes thereto,

Stressing the importance of following up on the recommendations contained in the report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,[1] which was welcomed by both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, and transmitted to the relevant bodies of the United Nations, including the Security Council,

Deeply concerned at the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that, in many instances, constitute crimes against humanity, as well as at the impunity of perpetrators, as described in the report of the commission of inquiry,

Concerned that the precarious humanitarian situation in the country is exacerbated by the failure of the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to provide humanitarian agencies with free and unimpeded access to all populations in need and by its national policy priorities that, among others, prioritize military spending over citizens’ access to food,

Reaffirming that it is the responsibility of the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its entire population, including by ensuring equal access to adequate food, as well as, among others, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly,

Recognizing that particular risk factors affect women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly, and the need to ensure the full enjoyment of all their human rights and fundamental freedoms by them against neglect, abuse, exploitation and violence,

Acknowledging the participation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the second universal periodic review process, noting the acceptance by the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of 113 out of the 268 recommendations contained in the outcome of the review and its stated commitment to implement them and to look into the possibility of implementing a further 58 recommendations, and emphasizing the importance that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea accept and implement the recommendations in order to address the grave human rights violations in the country,

Recognizing the important work of the treaty bodies in monitoring the implementation of international human rights obligations, and emphasizing the need for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply with its human rights obligations and to ensure regular and timely reporting to the treaty bodies,

Noting the importance of the issue of international abductions and of the immediate return of all abductees, taking note of the outcome of the government-level consultation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Japan in May 2014, on the basis of which the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea commenced investigations on all the Japanese nationals, and expecting the resolution of all issues related to the Japanese, in particular the return of all abductees, to be achieved at the earliest possible date,

         Welcoming the panel discussion on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including the issue of international abductions, enforced disappearances and related matters, held during the thirtieth session of the Human Right Council,

Noting the importance of inter-Korean dialogue, which could contribute to the improvement of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,

Welcoming the resumption  of the reunions of separated families across the border in October 2015, and, given that this is an urgent humanitarian concern of the entire Korean people, owing, in particular, to the advanced age of many members of the separated families, hoping that necessary arrangements for confirming the fate of family members, exchanging letters, visiting their hometowns and holding  further reunions on a larger scale and a regular basis will be made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and members of the Korean diaspora,

Reaffirming the importance of States engaging fully and constructively with the Human Rights Council, including with the universal periodic review process and other mechanisms of the Council, for the improvement of their situation of human rights,

1. Condemns in the strongest terms the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and other human rights abuses committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and expresses its grave concern at the detailed findings made by the commission of inquiry in its report, including:

(a) The denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and association, which is enforced through an absolute monopoly on information and total control over organized social life, and arbitrary and unlawful State surveillance that permeates the private lives of all citizens;
(b) Discrimination based on the songbun system, which classifies people on the basis of State-assigned social class and birth, and also includes consideration of political opinions and religion, discrimination against women, including unequal access to employment, discriminatory laws and regulations, and violence against women;
(c) Violations of all aspects of the right to freedom of movement, including forced assignment to State-designated places of residence and employment, often based on the songbun system, and denial of the right to leave one’s own country;
(d) Systematic, widespread and grave violations of the right to food and related aspects of the right to life, exacerbated by widespread hunger and malnutrition;
(e) Violations of the right to life and acts of extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape and other grave forms of sexual violence and persecution on political, religious and gender grounds in political prison camps and ordinary prisons, and the widespread practice of collective punishment with harsh sentences imposed on innocent individuals;
(f) Systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons, including those from other countries, on a large scale and as a matter of State policy;

2. Urges the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to acknowledge the human rights violations in the country and to take immediate steps to end all such violations and abuses through, inter alia, the implementation of relevant recommendations in the report of the commission of inquiry, including, but not limited to, the following steps:

(a) To ensure the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and association, including by permitting the establishment of independent newspapers and other media;
(b) To end discrimination against citizens, including State-sponsored discrimination based on the songbun system, and to take immediate steps to ensure gender equality and to protect women from gender-based violence;
(c) To ensure the right to freedom of movement, including the freedom to choose one’s place of residence and employment;
(d) To promote equal access to food, including through full transparency regarding the provision of humanitarian assistance so that such assistance is genuinely provided to vulnerable persons;
(e) To immediately halt all human right violations relating to prison camps, including the practice of forced labour, to dismantle all political prison camps and to release all political prisoners, to immediately cease the practice of the arbitrary execution of persons in custody, and to ensure that justice sector reforms provide protections for a fair trial and due process;
(f) To resolve the issue of all persons who have been abducted or otherwise forcibly disappeared, as well as their descendants, in a transparent manner, including by ensuring their immediate return;

3. Reiterates its deep concern at the commission’s findings concerning the situation of refugees and asylum seekers returned to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and other citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who have been repatriated from abroad and made subject to sanctions, including internment, torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, sexual violence, enforced disappearance or the death penalty, and in this regard strongly urges all States to respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, to treat humanely those who seek refuge and to ensure unhindered access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Office of the High Commissioner, with a view to protecting the human rights of those who seek refuge, and once again urges State parties to comply with their obligations under international human rights law as well as the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol thereto in relation to persons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who are covered by those instruments;

4. Stresses and restates its grave concern about the commission’s finding that the body of testimony gathered and the information received provided reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades; these crimes against humanity entail 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;

5. Stresses that the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have failed to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity and other human rights violations, and encourages the members of the international community to cooperate with accountability efforts and to ensure that these crimes do not remain unpunished;

6. Welcomes General Assembly resolution 70/172, in which the Assembly  encouraged the Security Council to continue its consideration of the relevant conclusions and recommendations of the commission of inquiry and  take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court and consideration of the scope for effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for acts that the commission has said may constitute crimes against humanity;

7. Also welcomes the decision of the Security Council to hold a second  Council meeting on 10 December 2015, following the one in December 2014 during which the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was discussed, and looks forward to the continued and active engagement of the Council on this matter;

8. Commends the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the activities undertaken to date and his continued efforts in the conduct of his mandate despite the lack of access to the country;

9. Welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur submitted to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-first session, in which the Special Rapporteur calls upon the Human Rights Council to establish a group of independent experts on accountability;

10. Recalling the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to designate for a period of six months, a maximum of two existing independent experts in support of the work of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to focus on issues of accountability for human rights violations in the country, in particular where such violations amount to crimes against humanity as found by the commission of inquiry;

11. Also requests this group of independent experts on accountability, taking into account existing international law and prevailing State practices with regard to accountability to

a) explore appropriate approaches to seek accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in particular where such violations amount to crimes against humanity as found by the commission of inquiry;
b) recommend practical mechanisms of accountability to secure truth and justice for the victims of possible crimes against humanity in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, including the International Criminal Court ;

12. Further decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 28/22 for a period of one year;

13. Calls again upon all parties concerned, including United Nations bodies, to consider implementation of the recommendations made by the commission of inquiry in its report in order to address the dire situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea;

14. Welcomes the establishment by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of a field-based structure in Seoul to strengthen the monitoring and documentation of the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to ensure accountability, to provide the Special Rapporteur with increased support, to enhance the engagement and capacity-building of the Governments of all States concerned, civil society and other stakeholders and to maintain the visibility of the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including through sustained communications, advocacy and outreach initiatives;

15.  Welcomes the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the role and achievements of the Office with regard to the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, submitted to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-first session, and invites the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide regular updates on the topic to the Human Rights Council ;

16. Calls upon all States to undertake to ensure that the field-based structure of the Office of the High Commissioner can function with independence, that it has sufficient resources and that it is not subjected to any reprisals or threats;

17. Requests the Office of the High Commissioner to report on its follow-up efforts in the regular annual report of the Secretary-General submitted to the General Assembly on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea;

18. Requests the Special Rapporteur to submit regular reports to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly on the implementation of his mandate, including on the follow-up efforts made in the implementation of the recommendations of the commission of inquiry;

19. Request the Special Rapporteur to include the report of the group of independent experts on accountability as an annex to his/her report to the Council at its thirty-forth session;

20. Acknowledges that the Special Rapporteur held a dialogue with the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in New York on 27 October 2014, and urges the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, through continuous dialogues, to invite and to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur, to give the Special Rapporteur and supporting staff unrestricted access to visit the country, and to provide them with all information necessary to enable them to fulfil such a mandate, and also to promote technical cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner;

21. Encourages the United Nations system, including its specialized agencies, States, regional intergovernmental organizations, interested institutions, independent experts and non-governmental organizations to develop constructive dialogue and cooperation with special procedures mandate holders, including the Special Rapporteur, and the field-based structure of the Office of the High Commissioner;

22. Encourages all States, the United Nations Secretariat, including relevant specialized agencies, regional intergovernmental organizations and fora, civil society organizations, foundations and engaged  business enterprises and other stakeholders towards which the commission of inquiry has directed recommendations to take forward those recommendations;

23. Encourages all States that have relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to use their influence to encourage it to take immediate steps to end all human rights violations, including by closing political prison camps and undertaking profound institutional reforms;

24. Requests the Secretary-General to provide the Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner with regard to the field-based structure with all the assistance and adequate staffing necessary to carry out the mandate effectively, and to ensure that the mandate holder receives the support of the Office of the High Commissioner;

25. Decides to transmit all reports of the Special Rapporteur to all relevant bodies of the United Nations and to the Secretary-General for appropriate action.



[1] A/HRC/25/63.

An HRNK Interview with Justice Michael Kirby, Former Chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK

Please click here to view the video.

Q1: In regards to an improvement in North Korean human rights, what was your original expectation of the impact of the Commission of Inquiry and how has it either been met or fallen short?

Justice Kirby: The situation in North Korea has been going on, as the Commission of Inquiry found, for a very longtime—decades. Therefore, we didn’t expect things would change overnight. We did not expect that the Commission of Inquiry would be permitted to come into North Korea and we, therefore, prepared our methodology on the assumption that we would not be given access to the country, but that didn’t stop us doing our job because there were 26,000 people from North Korea who had fled from that country, living in South Korea and many others living in other countries. So we had plenty of testimony. To what extent were things different from what we expected? Well, I think the value of the inquiry was that it connected a great deal of information from people, who in many cases quite recently, had recently been in North Korea and they could give their testimony and indicate what they went through, what their experiences as human beings were. And they demonstrated that very serious offenses to human rights had occurred and some of those were crimes again humanity, which the international community has promised to react to and respond to. So, that is where the Commission of Inquiry led us. It led us to fact-finding and to reaching conclusions on a high level of standard of proof and making recommendations for the improvement of the human rights situation in North Korea.

Q2: What role does China play as a member of the P5 (US, UK, France, Russia, and China) in the UN Security Council in regards to North Korean human rights?

Justice Kirby: Well, the Commission of Inquiry understood right from the start that the cooperation of the People’s Republic of China was really a key to getting progress in respect of human rights in North Korea. That is because, in part, of the economic links between the DPRK and China, also the historical and fraternal party links between the two countries, the geographical contiguity—China has a border with the DPRK—and the large Korean minority, many of them themselves descended from, or in person, refugees from North Korea who live on the border on China.

Q3: The Commission met with roughly 300 witnesses during its investigation. What struck you as the most compelling and significant issue that victims of the Kim regime face today?

Justice Kirby: The situation in respect to their testimony was graphic. I think the aspect of the testimony that I will never forget was the sheer necessity of food in the human being. Human beings can last for so long without literature, without art, and without the accoutrements of ordinary life, but food is absolutely essential. In our report, there is a very important chapter—very well written if I can say so—explaining how the daily grind of getting food is, for most people in North Korea or outside of the elite, a continuing grave burden on the people. We heard testimony, which was extremely graphic, of the situation of the lack of food in the detention centers. One person, who gave testimony, had the job of leading a wheelbarrow around the encampment to pick up the emaciated bodies of the people who had died overnight and put them in a vat, where they were burned. Their ashes and the body parts were then scattered on the nearby fields in order to help grow the rudimentary needs of food for the detention centers. I am of such an age that I remember seeing vivid images of emaciated bodies at the end of the Second World War, when the Allied soldiers opened up parts of the Nazi-occupied Germany. Sitting there, listening to this testimony, brought home to me that here was I, decades later, listening to testimony of a somewhat similar kind. Therefore, that was the most vivid testimony that I heard. The testimony of women and the suffering they had undergone; the testimony of disadvantaged groups; of disabled people; the testimony of people who could not practice their religion without very grave punishments—all of this was horrific in this day and age that this goes on, and in a country that is a member of the United Nations and has signed up to the United Nations treaties. So there is a job to be done here and it is the obligation of the whole world to make sure that those who are responsible for the crimes against humanity are rendered accountable before the bar of humanity for their crimes.

Q4: What were some of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry regarding North Korean detention camps?

Justice Kirby: The forms of torture that were inflicted on people in the detention camps in North Korea were all horrible: the motorbike torture, the airline torture, but the most horrible of all was the pigeon torture—when people were manacled and held above the floor so they couldn’t stand; they couldn’t rest; they couldn’t sleep; they vomited; they defecated; and they didn’t want to continue to live.

Q5: Do you foresee the public release of the names of the alleged perpetrators as part of an accountability or transitional justice measure?

Justice Kirby: We recommended that the matter should be referred by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court, where there is a prosecutor, who could have access to the material of the Commission of Inquiry and that prosecutor’s own investigations. That was the correct way to go about it. This is yet another instance of the fact that the Commission of Inquiry on North Korea acted with great propriety and care. We were prudent and we were careful. We thought that the step of launching a prosecution was a step that should be taken by a prosecutor, not by the Commission of Inquiry. Our job was to find facts, and that is what we did and all that we did.

Q6: What do you believe HRNK and other NGOs can do to ensure accountability for crimes against humanity in North Korea as an international goal?

Justice Kirby: Make sure that the world hears your voices. The voices of the people of North Korea cannot be heard. They cannot have access to the Internet. They cannot speak to us, but we can speak out for them and to them. It’s important that the United Nations should make our voices heard in North Korea and that is an important message that we should bring. Civil society should bring it and they should remember the motto: never give up; never give up; never give up. That is the motto they should accept for the voices of North Korea and they should become the voice of North Korea today, tomorrow, and until the human rights situation in North Korea is radically changed for the better.

Q7: What message would you like to send to HRNK’s board of directors, staff members, interns, volunteers, and supporters?

Justice Kirby: I have completed by duties in respect to North Korea, but your duties continue. Your duties involve lifting your voices, not being satisfied with inaction on the report. Getting a report is a good thing. It has put this matter on the agenda of the international community, but a report of itself does not change things in North Korea. It’s important that the change agents should be you. The change agents within North Korea are difficult to organize because of the totalitarian regime that exists there. Therefore, they need friends. They need friends outside North Korea. They need people who will lift their voices and pursue their actions peacefully in order to promote the changes that the Commission of Inquiry recommended. My recommendations and my words to those in HRNK would be to:

Stay the course, continue your efforts, and never give up in your efforts to bring human rights to North Korea. Be absolutely sure that in the end, human rights will come to North Korea. We humans are genetically programmed to search for rationality and to love one another and because of that fact, we will ultimately see an end to the oppression of human rights in North Korea. When that happens, HRNK will have an honored place in those who have worked for human rights for the people of North Korea.


Edited by Rosa Park, HRNK Director of Programs and Editor

Original transcription by Caitlin Lenzner-White, HRNK Research Intern

An HRNK Interview with Robert Collins, Author of "Pyongyang Republic: North Korea's Capital of Human Rights Denial"


Q1: What was your motivation to be a leader on North Korean human rights?

Robert Collins: When I decided to retire from the army six years ago, I felt that my knowledge could be useful in writing materials that would contribute to an overall understanding of how North Korea makes its decision and to how they carry out their policies. And so, since retirement, I’ve just continued with what the army taught me to do over those decades at the end of the 20th century and doing it unilaterally. And now I’m doing it in support of HRNK.

Q2: What do you think is the relationship between human rights issues and security concerns for the U.S. – R.O.K. relationship regarding North Korea?

Robert Collins: The deplorable human rights condition of North Korea has a direct impact on their military. They have a million man army that can’t be composed of everybody in the country that is on the positive side of the political classification system—songbun. Many, if not close to half, are recruits—those that receive a denial of human rights through their entire life because they have been classified, socially and politically, as enemies of the state. Therefore, they have grown up with inadequate food, poor education, poor housing, and the opportunities that they receive in the military are very, very limited. Those in the lower songbun classifications can’t become officers. The few that do can’t go past the company grade. And even up until a few years ago, many of the individuals in the North Korean military that were regarded as low songbun—low trust on the political scale—weren’t even allowed to carry weapons because they didn’t trust them.