“A wide range of crimes against humanity ( ... ) were, and continue to be perpetrated in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)". The three-member UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea published this unambiguous conclusion on February 17, 2014 in its report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This is the first time that UN investigators formally established that the North Korean leadership commits “crimes against humanity" against its own people. The commission was set up on March 21, 2013 with the task of collecting, analyzing, and evaluating material, without a judicial function.
“Without parallel in the contemporary world”
In about 400 pages, the Commission documented detailed data, witness statements, crimes and "unspeakable atrocities". Not only is the scope of the investigation unprecedented, but also the findings: “The gravity, scale, and nature of these violations of human rights show a state without parallel in the contemporary world" stated the Commission in the report. These crimes originate from policy at the highest level of state in North Korea.
Since the UN experts were denied entry to North Korea, the Commission interviewed 80 witnesses in public hearings and 240 people behind closed doors in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington on the situation in North Korea. The Commission gathered evidence on the labor camp system, enslavement, torture, murder, systematic rape, forced abortions, the intentional use of malnutrition, "disappearances", persecution on political grounds, and other human rights violations.
Urgent call to action
The UN Commission of Inquiry urgently calls on the international community for immediate action. According to the UN investigators, this should include the transfer of evidence to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. However, bureaucratic obstacles must be overcome for the delivery of the report to the Security Council alone. China, North Korea’s most important ally, is a permanent member of the Council, with the right of veto and thus can easily prevent the referral of the investigation to the International Criminal Court.
Photo: Sleep deprivation and being forced to remain in painful postures are widespread forms of torture in North Korea. Drawing created by camp survivor Kim Kwang-il - here, he depicts vomiting blood from being beaten in the chest
“If only we had known…!
Michael Kirby, Chairman of the UN Commission on North Korea emphasized: "What we have seen and heard so far - the accuracy, the details and the shocking personal testimony – will beyond a doubt require follow-up measures by the world community, as well as consequences for those responsible on the part of the DPRK”. Mr. Kirby made this statement at a press conference at the presentation of the human rights report on North Korea, which was unanimously adopted. Kirby also explained why the public hearings were available online: “The public must be able get the picture”. He explained: “At the end of the Second World War, so many people said 'If only we had known...!’ Now the international community does know…there will be no excusing a failure of action”.
ISHR: Call for open recognition of China's complicity
"China’s key role is again significant in resolving the North Korean tragedy,” says ISHR Spokesman Martin Lessenthin. "China's protection allows the regime in Pyongyang to continue to react indifferently to international appeals to respect human rights." The economic alliance with China is vital for the North Korean regime. China’s refugee policy is also of enormous significance. The People’s Republic is one of the few countries that refuses asylum to North Koreans. Instead, the Chinese authorities work together with North Korea to deport refugees. The deported refugees are threatened with torture and life as a slave laborer in North Korean camps. Therefore, the ISHR urges the international community to clearly insist that China exercises its responsibility toward the people of North Korea: “The complicity of the leadership in Beijing on the plight of North Koreans must be named openly”.
Link to the 36-page UN Commission of Inquiry report
[Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea - A/HRC/25/63 …]
Link to the 372-page document of individual fates and testimonies
[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 …]
UN General Assembly
On December 18, 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which strongly condemns the human rights violations committed by the North Korean government. Due to this resolution, the UN General Assembly passed the report of the UN Commission on to the UN Security Council, and demanded that it be delivered to the International Criminal Court.
[Resolution of the UN General Assembly]
UN Security Council
With a vote on December 22, 2014, the human rights situation in North Korea was included on the agenda of the UN Security Council for the first time. The UN General Assembly called on the Security Council to send the North Korean regime to trial for its human rights violations at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
[To the recording the UN Security Council session ...]
Link to the detailed video recordings of public hearings: