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Efforts to hold DPRK’s leadership accountable must continue – UN expert urges in last report


GENEVA (14 March 2016) – Repression remains unabated and the authorities in the   Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continue to exercise the strictest control over all aspects of its citizens’ lives, said the United Nations human rights expert Marzuki Darusman. “The totalitarian governing structure in North Korea absolutely denies rights to its people and its unchecked power appears as strongly entrenched as ever throughout the whole country,” he stressed.

“The international community must ensure that the senior DPRK leadership, including Mr. Kim Jong Un, are held accountable for the crimes against humanity committed in the country,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea urged today during the presentation of his last report* to the UN Human Rights Council.

“In this extremely centralized and hierarchical ruling structure, where tight control is extended to the smallest unit of the society, the principle of command and superior responsibility should offer a plausible theory to hold the ‘Supreme Leader’ Mr. Kim Jong Un and most of the past and present senior leaders individually culpable,” he underscored.

The UN expert recalled that North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on 6 January 2016 and launched a long-range missile on 7 February 2016, and stressed that “the denial of human rights to its citizens internally has made resources available to embark on the path of an aggressive military buildup; these are basically two sides of the same coin.”

Following the latest military tests by the North Korean authorities, Mr. Darusman noted that there are increasing references by a number of concerned Governments to a peace treaty to replace the armistice agreement that concluded the Korean War.

“Accountability for crimes against humanity must be an integral part of any discussion about the future of the Korean peninsula, including the scenario of a peace treaty,” he said. “ As the term implies, crimes against humanity are a concern for all of humanity. Ensuring accountability for such crimes justly requires the international community to play a role.”

The Special Rapporteur also highlighted the possible roles to be played by neighboring countries, like South Korea and Japan, which are State parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that sets out the crimes falling within its jurisdiction and the mechanisms for States to cooperate with the ICC, among other things.

He further touched upon the principle of universal jurisdiction that could open the possibility of prosecution in a second country. The Special Rapporteur called for the establishment of a group of experts to study possible accountability measures. 

“Now is a critical point in the history of the Korean people and the resolve of the international community to seek accountability for the crimes committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will have the most profound impact on the lives of individuals and for human rights in Asia and further afield,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.

(*) Check the full report (A/HRC/31/70):  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session31/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Mr. Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in August 2010 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity. He has served in a three-member UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and chaired the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. In March 2013, the Human Rights Council designated Special Rapporteur Darusman to serve simultaneously on a three-member Commission of Inquiry to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave reports of violations of human rights in DPRK. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/KP/Pages/SRDPRKorea.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the Commission of Inquiry’s report: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/coidprk/pages/commissioninquiryonhrindprk.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – DPRK: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KPIndex.aspx

OHCHR Seoul Office: http://seoul.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/HOME.aspx

For additional information and media requests, please contact Esther Lam in Geneva (+41 22 9289108/ elam@ohchr.org) or Yu Kanosue in Seoul (ykanosue@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
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