7830th Security Council Meeting: Human Rights Situation in DPRK

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09-Dec-2016 01:52:23
The Security Council narrowly adopts a procedural vote to authorize a discussion on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, at 7830th meeting.

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In discussing human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Security Council risked disturbing the situation in that country, some delegates warned today following a procedural vote that narrowly approved a meeting on that subject.

By 9 votes in favour to 5 against (Angola, China, Egypt, Russian Federation, Venezuela), with 1 abstention (Senegal), the Council went ahead with the meeting, as requested in a letter sent to the Council President by seven of its members (document S/2016/1034). They asked for briefings providing further information from the Secretariat on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its implications for international peace and security.

Delivering the briefings were Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson emphasized the obligations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under international law, equally stressing that the international community also had a collective responsibility to protect that country’s population from the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights, while living up to the “principle and norm of the Responsibility to Protect”.

Assistant Secretary-General Gilmour said there had been no improvement in the “truly appalling” human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since December 2015. The nature and scale of the violations underscored the link between human rights on the one hand, and peace and security on the other. The Commission of Inquiry formed in 2014 had found ongoing crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearances and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.

He went on to say that although monitoring that human rights situation remained a challenge, the Office for the Coordination of Human Rights (OHCR) had conducted more than 110 interviews with people who had left the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea over the past 12 months. The major emerging issue was the treatment of people in custody, he said, adding that violations reported included torture, solitary confinement and inadequate access to food, water and sanitation. There was also a lack of access to lawyers, while freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly remained almost entirely restricted. Those seeking to leave were at risk of trafficking and refoulement.

Noting that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also faced challenges in fulfilling the economic and social rights of its citizens, he said chronic food shortages had resulted in protracted under-nutrition, which in turn had affected children, pregnant and nursing women, and older persons in particular. Most citizens depended on private, mostly illegal, commercial activities to fulfil basic needs, he said, adding that discriminatory access to employment, education and other services based on a person’s family background, or songbun, continued to be reported.

Citing a positive development, he said the Pyongyang Government had submitted reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child and to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. However, failure to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations – some of which amounted to crimes against humanity – would sow the seeds of further instability and tension, he warned. Genuine and meaningful improvement in the human rights situation would not only protect the dignity and livelihoods of people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but also promote long-term security and stability in the region and beyond, he stressed. However, escalating security tensions would further isolate the country and leave its population to bear the terrible consequences at the further expense of their human rights.

He said progress was also lacking in efforts to resolve the issue of international abductions from the Republic of Korea, Japan and other countries. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had appointed two independent experts to support the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who had just concluded a mission to the Republic of Korea and Japan. They had also sought to engage with Pyongyang, he said, noting that the Special Rapporteur was exploring possibilities for dialogue with the authorities.

Ahead of the procedural vote, several delegates spoke in explanation of position. China’s representative said that the Council’s discussion of human rights was contrary to the goal of stabilizing the Korean Peninsula, describing the situation there as complex, sensitive and dire. Stressing that China stood for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and in favour of negotiations, he expressed hope that the Council would focus on the big picture and avoid any rhetoric or action that might lead to the escalation of tensions.

The Russian Federation’s representative said the Council should concentrate on real threats to international peace and security, adding that loading up its agenda with items like those proposed for discussion today would reduce the effectiveness of its work.

Venezuela’s representative said it was up to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to address the situation. Selectivity in dealing with human rights situations in certain countries was counter-productive and would not help the situation on the Korean Peninsula, he emphasized.

The representative of the United States said 2016 had seen an increasingly aggressive Pyongyang conducting missile launches and nuclear tests. The practices of the brutal Pyongyang Government could not be described as neutral vis‑a‑vis peace and security, she said, describing them as destabilizing and worrisome when taken together with the other aspects of the threat to peace and security.

Japan’s representative said that in the absence of a tangibly improved human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and in light of that situation’s destabilizing impact on the region, the reasons for holding today’s meeting persisted.

The Republic of Korea’s representative described as a delusion the firm belief of the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that only nuclear weapons and missiles could ensure his regime’s survival. The international community must continue to exert pressure on that country until it saw a change, he emphasized.

Other speakers today were representatives of Angola, United Kingdom, Ukraine, France, Egypt, Uruguay, New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Spain.
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