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UN Commission report places spotlight on human rights in North Korea

In January 2013, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay issued a strong call to the international community to put much more effort into tackling the “deplorable” human rights situation of people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). She said the time had come for a full-fledged international inquiry into serious crimes that had been taking place in the country for decades.

At the following Human Rights Council session in March 2013 in Geneva, the UN Commission of Inquiry on the DPRK was set up to “investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea... with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity.”

The Commission held public hearings with about 80 victims and witnesses in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington D.C. and more than 240 confidential interviews with victims and other witnesses, including in Bangkok, hearing accounts of “unspeakable atrocities” committed by North Korean authorities against people in the country.

On Monday, 17 February, the UN Commission of Inquiry on the DPRK released an unprecedented report documenting in great detail the wide-ranging array of crimes against humanity being committed in the country.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” it states.

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the report says, adding that “Crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.”

The Commission is scheduled to formally present its findings to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 17 March 2014.

17 February 2014

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