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COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA
17 March 2014

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Michael Kirby, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, said that the Commission had found systematic, widespread and grave human rights violations occurring in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and a disturbing array of crimes against humanity.  These crimes arose from policies established at the highest level of the State.  All efforts to initiate dialogue and offer cooperation had been spurned by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  The Commission challenged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to respect the human rights of its citizens. 

Speaking as the concerned country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea condemned and categorically rejected the report forcibly presented by the Commission of Inquiry, fabricated by the United States and other hostile countries.  This report was part of these countries’ attempt to defame the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s image and eliminate its social system.  The United States and other hostile forces should be investigated for their human rights violations.  The socialist system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, both legally and in practice, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would continue to strongly defend it.

In the interactive dialogue, speakers expressed grave concern about the findings in the Commission of Inquiry’s report of serious human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which may amount to crimes against humanity.  The absence and non-willingness of the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to cooperate with the Commission, including preventing access of members of the Commission into its territory, was also noted with concern.  The Government was urged to take immediate steps to halt such violations and to implement the recommendations of the Commission.  The international community was called upon to use all the mechanisms at its disposal to ensure accountability for these crimes, including referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

A number of speakers said constructive dialogue should be the way to address human rights issues.  The setting up of the Commission of Inquiry contravened this.  The inability of the Commission to get support and cooperation from the country concerned made it impossible for the Commission to conduct its work in an object and impartial manner.  Speakers rejected the use of human rights as a means of interfering in the internal affairs of States using selective mechanisms and double standards to deal with human rights.  The Universal Periodic Review was the only forum to review the situation of human rights of a country on an equal basis and should serve as the most constructive forum in this regard.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were European Union, China, Australia, Czech Republic, Austria, Estonia, Poland, Liechtenstein, Republic of Korea, Chile, Spain, Cuba, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Ireland, Belarus, Iran, Syria, Viet Nam, Portugal, Argentina, France, Luxembourg, United States, Thailand, Japan, Zimbabwe, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, United Kingdom, Mexico, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Switzerland, Albania, Norway, Venezuela, Botswana, Canada, Myanmar, and Romania.

Human Rights Watch, Jubilee Campaign, International Service for Human Rights, United Nations Watch, Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, and People for Successful Korean Reunification also took the floor.

The Human Rights Council during its noon meeting will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran. This will be followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Marzuki Darusman - Note by the Secretariat (A/HRC/25/62).

The Council has before it the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (A/HRC/25/63).

The Council has before it the report of the detailed findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (A/HRC/25/CRP.1).

Presentation of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

MICHAEL KIRBY, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, said that the Commission of Inquiry had found systematic, widespread and grave human rights violations occurring in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  It had also found a disturbing array of crimes against humanity.  These crimes were committed against inmates of political and other prison camps; against starving populations; against religious believers; and against persons who tried to flee the country, including those forcibly repatriated by China.  These crimes arose from policies established at the highest level of the State.  The gravity, scale, duration and nature of the unspeakable atrocities committed in the country revealed a totalitarian State that did not have any parallel in the contemporary world.  The rest of the world had ignored the evidence for too long.  What was important now was how the international community would act on the report.  A compelling report and wide media coverage were good, but woefully insufficient.  The Commission’s findings had been characterized by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as sheer lies and fabrications deliberately cooked up, and accused of politicizing human rights. 

The Commission did not ask anyone to blindly believe what it said.  Testimonies from hundreds of witnesses who spoke to the Commission of extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion and other sexual violence, could be read in the report.  Their testimony was not only in these documents, but also on the internet, but these were denied to the ordinary people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  It should be asked why this regime forbade such access.  If letting victims raise their voices was politicizing human rights, how could these victims then be helped?  All efforts to initiate dialogue and offer cooperation had been spurned by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  The Commission challenged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to respect the human rights of its citizens.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was urged to immediately and unconditionally implement all of the recommendations of the report.  The Commission also urged all countries, including China, to respect the principle of non-refoulement.  The Commission urged the Member States of the United Nations and the international community, to accept their responsibility to protect and implement all the recommendations contained in the report addressed to them, especially those related to accountability, including referral of the situation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court.  

Statement by the Concerned Country

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking as the concerned country, condemned and categorically rejected the report forcibly presented by the Commission of Inquiry, fabricated by the United States and other hostile countries.  This report was part of these countries’ attempt to defame the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s image and eliminate its social system.  The report contained fabricated testimonies by “defectors from the north” and criminals.  The presentation of the report was taking place at the same time as aggressive joint military drills conducted by hostile forces that threatened peace and security in the Korean Peninsula.  The report gave rise to serious concerns as to how it could be circulated as an official document of the United Nations.  The United States and other hostile forces should be investigated for their human rights violations.  The socialist system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, both legally and in practice, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would continue to strongly defend it.

Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

European Union was gravely concerned by the findings in the report of serious human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which may amount to crimes against humanity, and urged the Government to take immediate steps to halt such violations.  It recalled the important role of the International Criminal Court in tackling impunity for crimes against humanity and supported the recommendation that the situation be referred to the Court.  Austria commended the Commission of Inquiry for its comprehensive and deeply troubling report.  Austria was convinced that the report had to be treated with the greatest urgency and there could no longer be any excuses for inaction.  The international community was called upon to use all the mechanisms at its disposal to ensure accountability for these crimes, including referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Australia was deeply concerned by the Commission of Inquiry’s findings and urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to implement the recommendations of the Commission.  Other States were urged to implement the Commission’s recommendations, particularly to respect the principle of non-refoulement.  Australia also believed that the report deserved the Security Council’s consideration.  Czech Republic said the gravity of the violations was strengthened by the fact that they seemed to stem from the policies of the highest levels of the State.  The Czech Republic was in agreement with the conclusions of the report that the international community had to accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  The recommendation that the Security Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court was fully supported by the Czech Republic. 

Estonia noted with concern the absence and non-willingness of the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, including preventing access of members of the Commission into its territory.  The situation described in the report required the international community to take responsibility and to protect the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, since the Government had manifestly failed to do so.  China said constructive dialogue should be the way to address human rights issues.  The setting up of the Commission of Inquiry contravened this.  The inability of the Commission to get support and cooperation from the country concerned made it impossible for the Commission to conduct its work in an object and impartial manner.  Could such an inquiry be truly credible?  Many recommendations were divorced from the realities in the peninsula. 

Poland said that the report should be transmitted to all the relevant United Nations bodies and the Secretary-General for immediate action.  Appalled by the Commission’s findings, Poland believed that in light of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s failure to protect its population from human rights violations, the international community should shoulder its responsibility and ensure that those responsible were held accountable.  Poland urged the Government to implement all recommendations and to cooperate with the relevant mandate holders.  Liechtenstein was alarmed by the report, in particular by the nature of the crimes committed in a systematic manner, and welcomed the Commission’s recommendations.  In which format did the Commission intend to brief the Security Council and how could United Nations Member States support the implementation of the recommendations. 

Republic of Korea was deeply concerned with the findings of the report and urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to implement its recommendations.  The Republic of Korea believed that the Commission’s landmark report would be a turning point in the international community’s efforts to promote and protect rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,  and expressed support for the idea of reinforcing relevant United Nations mechanisms, in particular measures of accountability, to follow through with the Commission’s recommendations.  Chile condemned the conclusions of the report, in particular, concerning the existence of grave, systematic and widespread violations, in many cases accounting for crimes against humanity.  The United Nations should ensure that those responsible for these crimes were held accountable and that victims had access to remedy and redress.  States should not use the supply of essential humanitarian assistance to impose pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Spain expressed concerns at the existence of crimes against humanity along violations to many other rights in the territory of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Spain asked the Commission what bilateral measures could be taken to bear pressure on the Government in order to ensure that violations ceased rather than greater repression. 

Cuba objected to the imposition of selective resolutions and mandates against the South, with clear political motivation and no real concern about the human rights situation.  Cuba reiterated that cooperation mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review, were the ideal methods to analyse the human rights situation in all countries.  Cuba expressed its support to the Government and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Slovenia regretted that the Commission had not obtained access to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and was very concerned regarding the findings of the report, including with regards to violations of economic, social and cultural rights, and its appalling conclusions regarding crimes against humanity.  Slovenia supported the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court. 

Slovakia was strongly disappointed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had refused to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry.  Slovakia was seriously concerned regarding the findings of the report, which required a decisive response by the international community.  Slovakia underlined the necessity to adequately follow-up the work of the Commission and the need to hold perpetrators responsible before international criminal justice mechanisms. 

Lithuania regretted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not grant access to the country to the Commission, and commended the Commission for its work.  Lithuania deeply regretted the human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which sometimes amounted to crimes against humanity.  Lithuania further regretted that the perpetrators enjoyed systematic impunity.  New Zealand deeply regretted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had refused to engage with the Commission.  Human rights violations in this country had no parallel in any other country.  New Zealand urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to accept and implement the recommendations in the report.  The international community had to seriously consider the Commission’s proposal for collective actions. 

Ireland said that the report by the Commission detailed to a degree never seen before human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and welcomed the engagement of victims and witnesses.  Ireland fully supported the recommendation that the Security Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court as the most effective means to ensuring accountability.  Belarus rejected all country-specific procedures without the consent of the State.  Country mandates were ineffective and had a negative impact on the United Nations budget. 

Syria reiterated its rejection of the use of human rights as a means of interfering in the internal affairs of States using selective mechanisms and double standards to deal with human rights.  This was only intended to sully the reputation of the countries targeted and to undermine them.  It was absolutely essential that the Council not be turned into an instrument aiming at political purposes that had nothing to do with human rights.  Iran said that it had taken note of the report.  Iran was a firm believer that the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principles of genuine dialogue and cooperation.  Iran opposed the politicization of human rights issues, including country specific human rights issues, and the Human Rights Council should engage the country concerned in a constructive manner.

Argentina expressed concern at the conclusions of the Commission that systematic, widespread and grave violations had and continued to be committed, and that crimes against humanity had been committed.  Responsibility and accountability had to take place.  States should not use the supply of food or the provision of any essential humanitarian assistance to impose economic or social pressure.  It was important that States cooperate with the Council to improve their human rights situation. 

France thanked the Commission of Inquiry for the presentation and quality of the report.  Those who were bold enough to bear witness were also thanked.  France urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to immediately shut political prisoners’ camps and solemnly called upon it to put an end to all the violations.  The conclusions of the report deserved the attention of the Security Council. 

Viet Nam believed that the ultimate goal of the activities of the Human Rights Council was the protection and promotion of all the rights of the people on the ground, in line with international law.  Given the current circumstances in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while finding appropriate ways for long-term improvement, the most urgent priority should be given to humanitarian matters, including the realization of the right to food, education and health care, as well as the matter of abduction.  Portugal said that the question dealt with today was not politically motivated.  It was solely about human dignity, the most basic forms of human dignity, which were being denied to an entire population.  Portugal strongly supported the work carried out by the Commission of Inquiry.  The report confirmed the horrifying nature of the violations occurring in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  It was particularly appalled at the human rights abuses being committed against children.

Luxembourg remained concerned about information on the unthinkable violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and hoped that those responsible for these violations would one day answer for their actions.  Luxembourg deplored the persistent non-cooperation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and urged the Government to allow humanitarian actors to deliver assistance to the population.  United States regretted the lack of cooperation from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and remained concerned about the rights and well-being of the people of the country.  The report highlighted disturbing patterns of human rights violations in nine areas and the United States was deeply troubled by the Commission’s findings that these violations and abuses may meet the high threshold of proof of crimes against humanity.  Thailand urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the international community and the Council to promote and protect human rights without discrimination, including through the Universal Periodic Review process.  The Office of the High Commissioner should continue to engage with the Government, especially with regards to technical assistance.  Thailand asked the Commission what would be an appropriate structure to ensure accountability as recommended in the report, if access to the country was denied.

Japan lamented the disregard for the activities of the Council displayed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and said that the report uncovered the appalling reality of the human rights violations, many of which may constitute crimes against humanity.  The Japanese delegation presented the testimony of Mr. Izuka, whose sister had been abducted in Japan in 1978 and taken to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where she was forced to teach Japanese to the perpetrator of the 1978 Korean Airlines bombing incident carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Zimbabwe said it did not subscribe to the imposition of country-specific Special Procedures mandates, which were often politicised and manipulated by countries with specific agendas.  The Universal Periodic Review constituted the best mechanism to evaluate human rights situations.  Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was alarmed by the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea according to the Commission’s findings and dismayed by the reports of the use of torture as an established feature of the interrogation process.  Enforced disappearances were also a common practice.  The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia aligned itself with the group of States that supported the creation of a follow-up mechanism to the Commission of Inquiry.

Montenegro welcomed the work of the Commission of Inquiry, even though the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had refused to cooperate with it.  Montenegro urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to collaborate with the United Nations and to implement the recommendations made in the report.  Montenegro supported efforts to continue monitoring the situation there and ensure that the Human Rights Council remained seized of the matter. 

United Kingdom said that the international community had to respond to the conclusions of the report, including ensuring that perpetrators of human rights violations and crimes against humanity were held accountable.  The refusal by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage with the Commission was deeply worrying.  The United Kingdom urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to implement the recommendations made in the report and take immediate steps to close political prison camps and give access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Mexico said that it acknowledged the innovative working methods used by the Commission of Inquiry to collect information in complex circumstances.  Some of the conclusions of the Commission pointed to serious violations of human rights.  It was hoped that in future the Democratic People's Republic of Korea would exhibit greater cooperation with the international human rights system.  Albania welcomed the report of the Commission of Inquiry and deeply regretted the extreme violence used by the regime to deprive its citizens of the most fundamental human rights.  The stubbornness of the regime not to cooperate with the international community was not a surprise as it had much to hide.  Albania strongly condemned the unprecedented use of abductions and forced disappearances and called for referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Switzerland regretted the lack of cooperation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which had refused the Commission any access to the country.  Switzerland was extremely concerned at the systematic, widespread and grave violations detected by the Commission.  It was essential for those responsible for those crimes to be brought to justice.  Switzerland supported the recommendation that all means be used, including referral to the International Criminal Court.  Uruguay regretted that members of the Commission were not able to establish contact with the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea nor had access to the country.  In light of the allegations of systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights, Uruguay urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to open a channel of dialogue.  Two-track cooperation was the best way possible to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights. 

Norway said that the report had people’s dignity, well-being and rights at its centre.  To alleviate the hardship of the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Norway believed there was a need to continue humanitarian cooperation.  There could be no impunity for those responsible for grave international crimes and Norway supported the recommendation that the International Criminal Court investigate the findings with respect to crimes against humanity.  Lao People’s Democratic Republic said that a country-specific resolution would not help the international community address the issue.  The Universal Periodic Review was the only forum to review the situation of human rights of a country on an equal basis and was the most constructive forum in this regard.  The international community was urged to positively engage with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  

Venezuela said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea confirmed the serious risk represented by country-specific mandates, which were biased and politicized.  This was not the right way to promote dialogue on a human rights situation and was thus doomed to fail.  The Council must involve the concerned State in a constructive fashion and so make a genuine attempt to promote peace and security.  Botswana said that the report had revealed some of the worst crimes committed against the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea by its Government, some of which amounted to crimes against humanity.  The perpetrators of human rights violations should be brought to justice and the victims and their families should receive adequate remedy and redress.  Botswana expressed support for the referral of the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court. 

Canada condemned the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the strongest terms as it had no parallel in the contemporary world, and called for its referral to the international justice systems, including for the investigation of crimes against humanity.  Myanmar said that country-specific mandates could be counterproductive because there was no real cooperation between the mandate holders and the country concerned and stressed that the work of the Human Rights Council must be guided by independence, neutrality and cooperation and eliminate double standards from its work.  Romania supported the work of this and other Commissions of Inquiry which were the genuine mechanisms of the Human Rights Council to investigate alleged human rights violations.  Romania commended the people who had had the courage to testify before the Commission and asked about standards of proof used in the writing of this report.

Human Rights Watch said that rarely was the Council confronted with a report like the one on the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  The world could not remain indifferent to the suffering of the people described in the report.  The United Nations Security Council must now act and protect the people in this country from further abuse.  Jubilee Campaign, in a joint statement, thanked the Commission for the frank, honest and transparent way that it conducted its work.  There could finally be no mistake about the gravity of the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  A clear response from the Human Rights Council was needed and the organizations urged it to, at a minimum, endorse the recommendations of the Commission.  International Service for Human Rights said that slaughtering took place in the prisoners’ camps in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  At this moment hundreds of thousands of political prisoners were waiting for their death.  The people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea should enjoy their freedom.  Nobody had the right to deprive them of freedom.

United Nations Watch said the report described unspeakable atrocities.  Hundreds of thousands of political prisoners had perished in the camps.  The United Nations was urged to take urgent action.  The report spoke in depth about widespread violations of the right to food.  The Special Rapporteur on the right to food ought to regularly report on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  Amnesty International urged China and other States not to forcibly return individuals to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea where they could face enforced disappearance, execution or torture or other ill-treatment, upon return.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea had to remedy its acts of enforced disappearance that had affected tens of thousands of persons from many countries. 

International Commission of Jurists recalled the findings that desperate conditions continued to prevail in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, replete with widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, and called on the Council to adopt robust follow-up measures to ensure the accountability of the perpetrators.  The Council should make greater use of commissions of inquiry in such situations, such as by establishing a commission of inquiry on Sri Lanka.  People for Successful Korean Reunification said that violations were committed by the Government to keep a hold on power with absolutely no regard for the lives of Koreans.   The Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had denounced the report as a fabrication.  Why was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejecting the Commission’s request to investigate further?

Concluding Remarks by the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

MICHAEL KIRBY, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in concluding remarks, thanked the Council for the observations, comments and thoughtful questions.  There was no real sign either in what was said today or the dealings with the Commission that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed any respect for the United Nations, the Council or the Commission of Inquiry.  Not a word had been expressed by the delegation of the country concerning arbitrary detention, torture, discrimination, malnutrition, prison camps and abduction of Japanese and other nationals; instead there was the diversion of referring to interference by outside forces.  The Commissioners took their mandate seriously and would not have permitted any intervention in their activities.  The Government had not answered any of the questions presented by the Commission of Inquiry and the Council.  This had been the opportunity to provide answers, such as when the Commission had invited the Government to participate in its hearings, but the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had decided not to give an answer.  The public hearings had been an instrument to gain valuable testimony and document the realities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and such testimonies, presented in video in the margins of the Council, provided this. 

Mr. Kirby thanked the European Union and Japan for the work on a resolution, hoping that it would be suitably strong and would capture the concern of the international community on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  China had claimed that it was not possible for the Commission to have an impartial investigation, given that access had not been given to the country.  The Government’s refusal to engage and to participate could not invalidate the inquiry, the transparent testimonies on which the report findings were based were available for everyone to examine.  While China was correct that refugees from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had to abide by its law, as a party of the Refugee Convention and Protocol, China was bound to fulfil its obligations, for example not to send refugees back to a country where violations might be committed.  Mr. Kirby urged the Council to support the Special Rapporteur and, responding to questions on how Member States could contribute, he suggested that these issues were placed on the agenda of the Security Council, noting that it was not coincidence that the Charter stressed the links between grave rights violations and questions of peace and security.  The healing process could only start when recognition of past errors and human rights violations had been made.  There was corroboration between different witnesses who did not know each other, official reports of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, satellites, experts, non-governmental organizations, and people willing to speak up so that suffering would not be in vain.  Finally, Mr. Kirby thanked non-governmental organizations for their contributions and support.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC14/032E