Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
7 December 2009 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record
The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea this afternoon, during which seventy Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Cote d'Ivoire, following the review of the country on Thursday 3 December.
Presenting the national report of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was RI TCHEUL, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who said the review of the human rights situation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was taking place under circumstances different from others. As was known, at the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had been singled out for discussion every year out of purposes and motives irrelevant to genuine human rights. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea neither recognised nor accepted such "resolutions", categorically rejecting the as the extreme manifestation of politicisation, selectivity, and double standards in the area of human rights. However, it had come to this session as it valued the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, was impartially treating all United Nations Member States, considering that it would make positive contributions to the deepening of understanding among countries in the area of human rights.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea had consistently maintained the principle of prioritising human rights and honouring the United Nations Charter and international human rights instruments. In retrospect, the history of the country had been the history of struggle to safeguard the genuine human rights of its people. After the war, which turned everything to ashes, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea took active steps to raise the people's deteriorated material and cultural living standard to the pre-war level, and eliminated once and for all the root causes of exploitation and oppression in all spheres of State and public life. However, the dissolution of the socialist market in the early 1990s and the consequences of natural disasters negatively affected the enjoyment of the people of their economic and cultural rights in general. Today all the people, with ever more heightened honour and pride, were working devotedly to make the country an economic power and to guarantee the effective enjoyment of their human rights in economic, social and cultural sectors, with miraculous achievements being made in all fields.
In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, every individual citizen was entitled to enjoy human rights, and the State was obliged to ensure these rights- this was one of the important features of the system for the protection and promotion of human rights in the country. With a view to ensuring that the existing legal system proved its merit, the Government strengthened education in law observance throughout society, while creating a national and public atmosphere of combating even the slightest manifestation of abuse of authority and bureaucracy by civil servants, in particular by individual judicial, procuratorial and public security officials. The Government would in the near future create a firm material guarantee for the ensuring on a higher standard of a more affluent and civilised life for its people, their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and further strengthen and develop the socialist system of the style, which was based on love and trust for human rights. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea would participate in the interactive dialogue from a constructive and sincere approach, convinced that it would serve as an occasion to facilitate understanding of the human rights situation of the country, and encourage it in its efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights.
During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included that the decision to participate in the Universal Periodic Review was an important step in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's interaction with the United Nations human rights mechanisms; the policy of providing eleven years of compulsory, free, primary education; specific public strategies in the field of health, which was, by law, provided free of charge, with complete and universal free medical care; the Government's concerted efforts aimed to build a progressive and prosperous nation by the year 2012; the recent inclusion into the Constitution of human rights; the complete eradication of illiteracy, and the will expressed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in the context of the elaboration of the report, to honour the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights.
Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, what were the main internal obstacles and challenges to the protection and promotion of human rights; continuing reports of grave and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the array of which cut across civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights; what were the control mechanisms which ensured humane conditions of detention in prisons and in particular in camps holding political prisoners; what concrete measures had been taken to avoid situations of food scarcity; what kind of independent monitoring system was in place to ensure that victims' rights were protected; what efforts had the country undertaken to stop the practice of forced labour in detention and to cease Government mobilisation projects that often involved children; and if the Government had any plans to effectively implement its obligations under the international human rights treaties to which it had already acceded.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: to positively consider requests for country visits by the special procedures and implement the recommendations stemming from United Nations human rights mechanisms; to ratify core international human rights instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention against Torture; to consider joining the ILO and accede to its core conventions, especially those on child labour; to establish a moratorium on executions with the aim of abolishing the death penalty; to prevent violence against vulnerable groups, in particular children; that the country should secure the right to food for all its citizens, especially so as to secure the right to health for children; that it should allow freedom of movement of its citizens within and across the border and end the punishment of those expelled or returned from abroad, including refugees and asylum seekers; and to take all necessary measures at the grassroots level to uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and relevant domestic laws.
Other recommendations included: that the issue of abductees from Japan and other countries be resolved; that the authorities guarantee separated families the fundamental right to know the fate of their family members across the border, and to communicate and regularly meet; to review its legal and administrative measures with a view to ensuring the dignity and better living conditions of the vulnerable groups including women and children; to continue efforts to reinvigorate the national economy through, inter alia, allowing more freedom for people to engage in economic and commercial activities; to step up measures to comprehensively address the problem of trafficking and violence against women, including by increasing public awareness campaigns to sensitise the community on the issue; continue to engage members of the international donor community in capacity-building in economic and social rights; that those detained for their peaceful political views or actions be freed; that a National Human Rights Institution be created; and that there be immediate action to cease the practice of forced labour, including in detention facilities.
Responding to questions and issues raised, Mr. Ri said some of the comments and recommendations were useful, as they encouraged and supported the Government's efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights; however, it seemed that some comments and recommendations were made out of misunderstanding of the reality of the country, or based on misinformation. Some delegations repeated this misinformation as though they had witnessed it themselves, and this was discouraging. On freedom of religion, the Constitution provided for freedom of belief. No-one was privileged or disadvantaged with regards to access to cultural or material possessions. Civil servants were not given privileged access to food. In the future, thanks to development of agriculture, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea would meet its food needs on its own. In concluding remarks, Mr. Ri said, among other things, that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had done its part in implementing recommendations made by treaty bodies. Further, the issue of abduction had been resolved and did not exist.
Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Brazil, Japan, Republic of Korea, Cuba, United States of America, Belgium, Pakistan, France, Nicaragua, United Kingdom, Mexico, China, Indonesia, Norway, Slovenia, Qatar, Netherlands, Chile, Italy, India, Philippines, Nigeria, and Hungary.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Belarus, Turkey, Malaysia, Syria, Thailand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Libya, Iran, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe, Israel, Yemen, Austria, Germany, Canada, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Sweden, Ireland, Poland, New Zealand, Palestine, Spain, Lithuania, Greece, and Switzerland.
The thirteen-person delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea consisted of representatives from the Department of Legislation of the Supreme People's Assembly, the Legal Bureau of the Central Court, the Ministry of Public Health, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea are Mexico, South Africa, and Norway.
In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea can be found here.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on Wednesday 9 December.
Adoption of report on the Democratic Republic of Congo: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on the Democratic Republic of Congo are Slovakia, Ghana, and Bolivia. Introducing the report, MERCY YVONNE AMOAH (Ghana) said the review provided an opportunity for participating delegations to engage Cote d'Ivoire in a cordial exchange on all aspects of the Government's implementation of the commitments in the field of human rights. Representing the State under review, TIA KONE, President of the Supreme Court of Cote d'Ivoire, said all the recommendations made during the session would be examined, as Cote d'Ivoire was committed to emerging from the crisis and to restoring the rule of law, fighting against impunity, and ensuring the implementation of all human rights.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Brunei Darussalam.
Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.
To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp.