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Council holds separate debates on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and in Eritrea

Human Rights Council 
MORNING

16 March 2015

The Human Rights Council this morning held separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and with the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea.

Marzuki Darusman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, introducing his report, said that it focused on a multi-track strategy aimed at addressing the issue of international abductions, enforced disappearances and related matters.  The strategy sought to maintain momentum and visibility of the issue to sustain continuous and targeted pressure on the authorities through steps such as a comprehensive mapping of international abductions and enforced disappearances, targeted action by a group of interested Member States, a dedicated international conference, and ways to achieve closure and accountability, including by referral to the International Criminal Court.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking as the concerned country, rejected the report and said that the resolution against the country and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur were only a product of politicization of human rights and a symbol of confrontation and distrust.  The reports by the Special Rapporteur and by the Commission of Inquiry were distorted and contained fabricated information.  In order to avoid criticism, the Special Rapporteur had recklessly instigated the so-called “regime change”, contrary to the Code of Conduct of the Special Procedures.

In the ensuing discussion, some speakers strongly condemned the ongoing, systematic and widespread gross human rights violations and abuses in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, including torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violence against women, and restrictions to freedoms of movement and the right to food.  The Government should take firm measures to halt serious human rights violations, immediately release all political prisoners, engage in a committed dialogue with the United Nations human rights system, and cooperate with the Special Procedures, including on the issue of international abductions.  Other speakers said that country mandates were not an appropriate manner to address human rights issues and were contrary to the principle of the Responsibility to Protect.  They rejected country-specific mandates as politically motivated and in violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the principle of national sovereignty.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were European Union, Czech Republic, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Japan, Estonia, France, Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Spain, Norway, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Russia, Syria, Portugal, Cuba, Ireland, China, Canada, Lithuania, Zimbabwe, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, United States, Viet Nam, Ghana, Belarus, Slovakia, Australia, Iran, Poland, United Kingdom, and Myanmar.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations:  Human Rights Watch, United Nations Watch, and People for Successful Corean Reunification.

The Council also held an interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Eritrea with Michael Smith, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea.

In his oral update Mr. Smith said that there were very clear patterns of human rights violations in Eritrea.  The dominant dimension of the situation in the country was the use of the so-called state of “no war, no peace”; under this pretext, the whole society was militarised; the national service was universal and of an indefinite duration; the Constitution had never been implemented and the National Assembly was not sitting; and there was no rule of law in the country, and no one was being held accountable for violating the rights of groups and individuals.  Pervasive State control and ruthless repression of perceived deviant behaviour were crucial, hence a network of spies that went deep into the fabric of social life, extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances and incommunicado detentions. 

Speaking as the concerned country, Eritrea said that no gross or systematic human rights violations were occurring in the country.  The Commission of Inquiry’s mandate was politically motivated, while its approach was in contradiction with the Code of Conduct.  The Human Rights Council should consider the situation in Eritrea in the context of the continued occupation of its sovereign territories, the illegal and unjust sanctions imposed on Eritrea, and the belligerent stance and hostilities of some countries.  Despite these obstacles, Eritrea had continued to uphold human rights, and had achieved modest success in the economic growth and responsible participation of the people.  Other speakers did not support any initiatives specifically targeted against countries of the South, especially when mandates did not enjoy the support of the countries concerned.  The Council must fulfil its mandate to promote and protect human rights on the basis of genuine cooperation and without using coercion and double standards.

Speakers in the discussion deplored the non-cooperation by the Eritrean authorities with the Commission of Inquiry, particularly in light of the alarming human rights situation in the country, including mass restrictions on freedoms of expression and assembly, arbitrary detention and torture, extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances, forced labour and indeterminate participation in the national service.  The “no war, no peace” situation should not serve as an excuse for the continuation of the militarization of the population and the violation of the rights of the Eritrean citizens.  Speakers took positive note of Eritrea’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, adding that differences in human rights should be resolved through dialogue and cooperation and that imposition and coercion would not bring about solutions. 

Speaking in the dialogue were European Union, United States, Norway, Venezuela, Ghana, Czech Republic, Sudan, France, Australia, Germany, Djibouti, Ireland, China, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: International Fellowship of Reconciliation in a joint statement, Human Rights Watch, Article 19, and Amnesty International.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  At noon, the Council will hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Iran, and with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Marzuki Darusman (A/HRC/28/71)

Presentation of the Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that since his last report in June 2014, there had been several important and unprecedented developments regarding the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.   In September 2014 the Government had announced that it had accepted 113 recommendations out of the 268 made in the context of its second Universal Periodic Review held in May 2014.   Most of the recommendations pertained to the fulfilment of economic and social rights, and the rights of vulnerable groups.  That was a notable improvement over the lack of collaboration extended during and after the first cycle.  In December 2014 the General Assembly had adopted a resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including a possible referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.  However, in the aftermath of the key developments at the General Assembly and Security Council, the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had indicated that it would suspend dialogue with the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur, and that respective invitations to visit the country would no longer be fulfilled. 

The report of the Special Rapporteur focused on the development of a multi-track strategy aimed at addressing the issue of international abductions, enforced disappearances and related matters, as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  More than 200,000 persons, including children, had been taken from other countries to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The strategy sought to maintain momentum and visibility of the issue in the international arena to sustain continuous and targeted pressure on the authorities in that country through the following steps: a comprehensive mapping of international abductions and enforced disappearances; sustained actions by the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly; the continuous use of United Nations human rights mechanisms; targeted action by a group of interested Member States; a dedicated international conference; an active role for an international civil society coalition and regional mechanisms; communication, advocacy and outreach initiatives; and ways to achieve closure and accountability, including by referral to the International Criminal Court.

Statement by the Concerned Country
 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking as the concerned country, rejected the report and recalled that such reports were full of fabrication by a few defectors, who had fled the Democratic People's Republic of Korea after committing crimes in their motherland and were bribed to give false testimonies.  The resolution against the country and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur were only a product of politicization of human rights and a symbol of confrontation and distrust, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea would continue to oppose and reject it.  The reports by the Special Rapporteur and by the Commission of Inquiry were distorted and contained fabricated information.  In order to avoid criticism, the Special Rapporteur had recklessly instigated the so-called “regime change”, contrary to the Code of Conduct of the Special Procedures.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea would continue to strongly defend its socialist system which had been chosen by its people and would make further efforts to fulfil its international human rights obligations.

Interactive Dialogue Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

European Union said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry had provided solid documentation on the horrific human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and paved way for the adoption of two strong resolutions by the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.  The European Union remained gravely concerned by the findings of serious human rights violations which might amount to crimes against humanity and, stressing that there could be no impunity for such violations, continued to support the recommendations that the Security Council refer the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court.  

Czech Republic believed that the referral of the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court would ensure accountability for the crimes and prevent impunity.  It was regrettable that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had decided to suspend dialogue with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Czech Republic urged the Government to immediately release all political prisoners and cooperate with the Special Procedures, including on resolving the situation of international abductions.

New Zealand said it remained deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and supported further efforts of the Special Rapporteur to examine abuses there.  It urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.  Could the Special Rapporteur elaborate on further steps that could be taken by Member States to urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to re-engage with the international community?  New Zealand remained open to discuss specific proposals.

Netherlands supported the work of the Commission of Inquiry and urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, notably by granting them access to the country.  The international community should sustain continuous and targeted pressure on the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The Netherland condemned long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations.  It asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the multi-track strategy, in particular outreach at the bilateral level.

Japan said that every year the Council adopted the resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  A report had been issued on human rights violations in the country, as a result of the concern of the entire international community.  Japan welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to consolidate the strategy on forced abductions and forced disappearances.  This session, Japan and the European Union would once again table a resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to address the most pertinent issues, including accountability, and to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

Estonia said the findings in the report revealed serious violations that amounted to crimes against humanity and impunity for those crimes.  Those responsible would eventually be held accountable.  Estonia regretted the lack of cooperation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the Commission of Inquiry and demanded that its members be allowed full access to the country.  It called for an extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for another year. 

France welcomed that the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not only on the Human Rights Council’s agenda, but also on the agenda of the Security Council.  The work of the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry was highly valuable for documenting violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Accountability for crimes against humanity was a moral imperative for the international community.  France called for an extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and underlined the important role that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ office in Seoul had to play. 

Republic of Korea said the international community should make every effort to follow-up on the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations.  The international abductions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were a serious issue of concern.  In addition to this issue, the Republic of Korea had other concerns, including the fact that the principle of non-refoulement of asylum seekers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not respected.  Other United Nations organizations on the ground should be encouraged to play a role and apply the Secretary-General’s Rights Up Front strategy. 

Venezuela said that country mandates were not an appropriate manner to address human rights issues and were contrary to the principle of the Responsibility to Protect.  The use of country-specific mandates was an extension of the hegemonic politics of some countries and their allies and was contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter.  The Human Rights Council must involve States in a constructive manner to improve the human rights situation on the ground and move to consolidation of peace and security in the region.

Spain expressed support for the strategy proposed by the Special Rapporteur.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea must undertake as soon as possible a dialogue with the countries and communities concerned by abductions, put an end to human rights violations in the country, release political prisoners and tear down the prisoner of war camps.  Spain asked about the role of the Special Rapporteur in the verification of compliance with the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.

Norway fully supported the call for accountability and change in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and said that the two-track strategy proposed by the Special Rapporteur could serve as a gateway for the Government and the United Nations human rights system that would benefit strengthening of institutions and the well-being of the people in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  Norway called on the Government to take firm measures to halt serious human rights violations and to engage in a committed dialogue with the United Nations human rights system.

Albania supported the Special Rapporteur’s analysis that highlighted that the international community had to maintain momentum and continue active engagement in order to address the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It agreed that it was pertinent to pursue a multi-track and multi-actor strategy, which consisted of combined efforts to ensure accountability.  It appealed to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea not to link its obligations under the international human rights framework with any political considerations.

Latvia welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report, noting the shocking nature of the human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It had been encouraging to see positive developments in that country in the second half of 2014, and Latvia shared disappointment that those developments had lost momentum.  Latvia called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to resume change.  In addition to bilateral efforts, an international approach was required to address the issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances. 

Switzerland welcomed concrete actions developed by the Special Rapporteur, and expressed great concern about systematic human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It reiterated its support that all international instruments, including the International Criminal Court, be used to maintain pressure on the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It asked the Special Rapporteur to reflect on how Member States could engage the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the international community.

Liechtenstein agreed with the calls by the Special Rapporteur to make use of the momentum created by the Commission of Inquiry and to address accountability for those responsible for serious violations of human rights, including crimes against humanity.  Liechtenstein reiterated its call on the Security Council to refer the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court, and underlined the importance for accountability to remain high on the agenda of all stakeholders. 

Russian Federation said that the Special Rapporteur had exceeded his mandate by calling for a referral of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court, and had violated the Code of Conduct.  The Russian Federation regretted the politicization of the work of the Council and the fact that some States used Special Procedures against governments they did not like.  The Universal Periodic Review was the right mechanism to address human rights situations in specific countries. 

Syria rejected the use of Special Procedures, such as the one on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to advance political agendas and criticize States that had not recognized such procedures.  These practices undermined the credibility of the Human Rights Council.  Syria said that as long as politicized Special Rapporteurs and Commissions of Inquiry were appointed, the Council would not be able to address human rights in an impartial and non-selective manner. 

Portugal strongly condemned the long-standing, ongoing, systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and abuses committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, including torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violence against women and the restrictions to freedoms of movement and the right to food.  There could be no impunity for such violations and Portugal extended its support to the recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry for the referral of the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court.

Cuba reiterated its opposition to the imposition of selective mandates and resolutions which were politically motivated.  They were not motivated with genuine concern or the wish to contribute to the dialogue with concerned Governments.  Cuba was also concerned about considerations against political systems of concerned countries which were motivated by political ideology and Cuba could not support actions seeking a regime change.  The Universal Periodic Review was the appropriate mechanism to analyse the human rights situation in all countries.

Ireland said that the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had been a major issue of concern for many years and agreed that now the international community must redouble its efforts to effect a meaningful change.  Ireland supported the strategy proposed to address the issue of international abductions and agreed that the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly could and should add dimension to the international understanding of those issues.  Ireland urged continuous engagement of the United Nations Security Council on this human rights situation.

Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, responding to some of the questions and comments raised by Member States, said there were two issues to highlight.  The first one was clarification of a two-track strategy on the one hand and of a multi-track strategy on the other hand.  A two-track strategy entailed ensuring that a concerted voice of the international community continued to be visible and heard, as well as looking into the capacities within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in order to perhaps build on any changes that may take place in the country.   That meant looking at conditions that emerged and that may lead to incremental changes, and ensuring that there were capacities from within and not just from outside.  The second issue referred to the Special Rapporteur’s supposed support for regime change in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which came up during an interview with the Associated Press.  The Special Rapporteur clarified that he personally never advocated regime change, and that he had simply been answering a question about the release of inmates in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

China said human rights differences had to be resolved through dialogue and cooperation, rather than through politicization, which did the opposite of creating peace and security in the Korean Peninsula.  China would continue working for denuclearization in the region through dialogue.  China hoped the Human Rights Council would make constructive efforts for peace and security in the region, and said the Special Rapporteur had to respect the Code of Conduct for Special Procedure mandate holders. 

Canada said the Commission of Inquiry’s report and the General Assembly resolution adopted last year had contributed to raising awareness on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Canada was concerned about impunity that remained for those responsible for serious human rights violations.  Canada would continue working to preserve the momentum created by the Commission of Inquiry, and asked what steps could be taken individually by States to implement its recommendations. 

Lithuania regretted the lack of substantial change on the ground despite the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s initial announcement that it would cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.  Lithuania found it concerning that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had rejected all recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry, including those pertaining to crimes against humanity, and urged the Government to allow access to its territory for the Special Rapporteur and other United Nations mechanisms without further delay. 

Zimbabwe said that it did not subscribe to the imposition of country specific Special Procedure mandates as history had shown that such mandates tended to be prosecutorial, politicised and selective.  The Council should be guided by the principle of cooperation and constructive dialogue in its dealings with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and with all Member States.  The Universal Periodic Review was a more appropriate and productive mechanism to address any issues of concern.  Since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had already participated in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, it should be allowed space to work towards the implementation of the recommendations it accepted.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic said that the Universal Periodic Review process was the appropriate forum to discuss and review the situation of human rights in any country on an equal basis.  It shared views that a country-specific human rights resolution would not help address human rights issues.  It noted the efforts of the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the international community, by having participated in the first and second cycles of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group.  It called on the international community to continue positive dialogue and engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

United States commended the Special Rapporteur’s report and expressed deep concern about the ongoing widespread and gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It regretted that the Government continued to refuse to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and withdrew its offer to allow him to visit the country.  It urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage directly with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on how to fulfil its international human rights obligations and commitments.

Viet Nam shared the concern expressed by several delegations over the politicization of this question in the Council and in other United Nations bodies.  Immediate priority should be given to the rights to food, education and health of the people; issues of abduction and disappearance must also be addressed timely and appropriately.  Viet Nam urged greater endeavour to be made in and around the country, and said that it was necessary to further enhance the credibility and verifiability of information used in the related processes in the United Nations.

Ghana said that visits by Special Rapporteurs gave Member States an opportunity to engage with the international community on ways to improve the human rights of their citizens and urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.  Ghana condemned all human rights violations in this country and encouraged the international community to continue to engage because it was the best way to elicit the required support to enhance implementation of its human rights obligations.

Belarus said that selective and politicized country mandates not agreed by States concerned were not able to achieve progress in human rights; this could only happen with cooperation and strengthening of the potential of States.  The Human Rights Council should continue its efforts to establish a constructive dialogue with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  The acceptance of many recommendations by the Universal Periodic Review by this Government proved the strength of its cooperative approach.

Slovakia took note of encouraging steps by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and called for it to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms.  The human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea required full attention by the international community.  Slovakia commended the Special Rapporteur’s engagement on the issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances.   Slovakia called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage constructively with all countries concerned to ensure the return of those abducted. 

Australia remained deeply troubled by systematic and widespread human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s strategy to address international abductions and enforced disappearances.  Australia regretted that the signs of positive engagement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were not proffered in good faith.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continuing refusal to allow access to the Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights remained a clear indication of its unwillingness to engage constructively on human rights issues. 

Iran maintained its view that the practice of selective approaches in the Human Rights Council was a tool that exploited human rights for political purposes, breached the principles of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity in addressing human rights issues, and undermined cooperation as the essential principle to effectively promote and protect all universally recognized human rights for all.  The Human Rights Council should engage the country concerned in a constructive manner and contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground as well as peace and stability in the region. 

Poland remained deeply concerned about the findings of the Special Rapporteur’s report on the ongoing, systematic and widespread human rights violations.  A number of them may amount to crimes against humanity.  It welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s strategy to address international abductions and enforced disappearances.  It called upon the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and the international community, and to allow a country visit. 

Sudan said that the engagement of the Human Rights Council with Member States, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, should be constructive, with the highest degree of objectivity, impartiality and non-politicisation.  It viewed with satisfaction the outcome of mechanisms that enhanced international cooperation through constructive dialogue, and it welcomed the acceptance of the 113 recommendations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in its second Universal Periodic Review.  How did the Special Rapporteur plan to ensure the credibility of information?

United Kingdom welcomed the statement that human rights violations would not be tolerated and the Special Rapporteur’s plan to address international abductions and enforced disappearances. The United Kingdom would continue working with the international community on that issue.  It regretted the decision of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to withdraw cooperation with the international community, and called on it to revisit that decision.  It supported the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation that human rights violations be investigated by the International Criminal Court.

Myanmar said that country-specific mandates were counter-productive because they did not create environments conducive to dialogue with concerned countries.  Working methods and modalities of country-specific dialogues and mandates did not provide enough room for the concerned countries to have a meaningful balanced dialogue as it was not possible to address a 20-page report containing many allegations in five minute speaking time.  The work of the Human Rights Council should be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity, and the elimination of double standards and politicization.

Human Rights Watch said that there had been no change in the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or in the fundamental and discriminatory policies of the Government.  The key goals of the contact group should be to press the Government to allow a visit to the country by the Special Rapporteur.  The international community must redouble its efforts in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the unspeakable crimes.

United Nations Watch welcomed the strategy to address the issue of missing persons and said that the testimonies of many families from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea whose members had disappeared were now before the Working Group on Disappearances and Arbitrary Detention.  The Special Rapporteur should examine the case of overseas workers, whose condition was much like slavery.

People for Successful Corean Reunification underlined the situation of “North Koreans” sent to work abroad to earn foreign currency for the Government, deprived of their basic rights under what amounted to State-sponsored slavery.  Around 20,000 “North Koreans” were working in the Russian Federation, with their families being held hostage in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to secure their obedience abroad. 

Concluding Remarks by the Concerned Country

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking as the concerned country, thanked all countries which expressed their support and principled position against politicization and double standards.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea categorically rejected the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, who should stop his bribed visits to defectors who had committed crimes in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and said that he should resign immediately after his excessive and impudent actions beyond his mandate.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recommended those countries which had formulated groundless accusations against it to respect the socialist system that its people had chosen and were proud of. 

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in his concluding remarks referred to some issues raised by Member States and representatives of civil society.  The multi-track strategy consisted of a number of elements, such as the needed mapping of international abductions and enforced disappearances, and updating of relevant information.  The scale may be larger than was previously thought.  Secondly, the sustained action by the Security Council was necessary in order to move the matter to a larger judicial mechanism of the United Nations.  Thirdly, the visibility of the issue should be as high as possible through the engagement of the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.  In order to affect continuous attention to the issue, a contact group of concerned Member States should be established.  The group would serve as a catalyst between the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Council.  The international conference on international abductions and enforced disappearances was proposed in order to maintain the high visibility of the issue, but also to use it to reflect on similar issues elsewhere.  An active role of the international civil society coalition was important and thus the Special Rapporteur appealed to them to come up with a strategy of their own.  Finally, the international community should continue to express concern in order to provide closure of the issue.  The multi-track strategy relied on the continued use of United Nations human rights mechanisms.  The question of ensuring accountability was a key one and it was in the hands of the Security Council, and should reach the furthest possible point.  The issue of overseas workers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea required further coordination of thematic groups within the United Nations.

Presentation by the Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea

MICHAEL SMITH, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, in his oral update to the Human Rights Council, said that the Government of Eritrea so far had not cooperated with the Commission of Inquiry; the Commission was now pursuing alternative avenues to obtain direct and first-hand information in a transparent, independent and impartial manner.  The Commission had interviewed approximately 400 people in five different countries, and had received 140 written submissions; it was now in a position to report on very clear patterns of human rights violations in the country.  The dominant dimension of the situation in Eritrea was the use of the so-called state of “no war, no peace”, which had become a pretext for almost all the State’s actions that generated and perpetuated human rights violations.  The so-called state of “no war, no peace” was not a status recognized by international law; it was an expression abusively used by the authorities to disregard international human rights law as if Eritrea was in a legal limbo.  Under this pretext, the whole society was militarised, a national service was universal and of an indefinite duration, the Constitution had never been implemented and the National Assembly was not sitting, there was no rule of law in the country, and no one was being held accountable for violating the rights of groups and individuals.  The Government had curtailed most freedoms, from movement to expression, from religion to association, and had created a condition in which individuals felt that they had hardly any choice about main decisions in their lives. 

Pervasive State control and ruthless repression of perceived deviant behaviours were crucial to ensure the enforcement and perpetuation of such a system; hence a network of spies that went deep into the fabric of social life, extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances, and incommunicado detentions.  Eritrea was a country where detention was an ordinary fact of life, experienced by an inordinate number of individuals, including children, where detention centres were official and unofficial, above ground and underground, where once in one of them, there was a likelihood of torture to extract a confession or simply punish behaviour.  It was not surprising that faced with such challenges, hundreds of Eritreans left the country every day, braving death to cross borders, deserts and seas, many of them never making it to the “other side”.  Mr. Smith recognized the recent cooperation of Eritrea with some human rights mechanisms and recalled the centrality of human rights when initiating dialogue and cooperation with the Government, and reminded that the massive exodus of Eritreans could not be tackled without addressing the human rights situation in the country.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Eritrea, speaking as the concerned country, reiterated its position that country-specific mandates without the consent of the concerned State were counterproductive.  They were a breach of the principle of non-politicization and non-selectivity of the Council.  There were no gross or systematic human rights violations in Eritrea.  The mandate of the Commission of Inquiry was politically motivated and its approach was in contradiction with the Code of Conduct.  Eritrea had ascertained a veracious path of engagement and cooperation with the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Universal Periodic Review and through bilateral diplomacy.  The approach on Eritrea so far had been to disregard the essence of the problems which impinged on Eritrea’s sovereignty, right to development and right to live in peace.  Eritrea urged the Council to consider the situation in Eritrea in the context of continued occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, the illegal and unjust sanctions imposed on Eritrea and the belligerent stance and hostility of some countries.  Despite these obstacles, Eritrea continued to uphold human rights and had achieved modest success in the adequate standards of living, economic growth and responsible participation of the people.  Eritrea urged the Council to avoid the confrontational approach by abandoning the country-specific resolutions and mechanisms imposed on it. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea

European Union deeply regretted that the Government of Eritrea had refused to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and grant it access to the country.  Eritrea should reaffirm its clear commitment to human rights and explore all avenues to support positive changes in that area.  The “no war, no peace” situation should not serve as an excuse for the continuation of the militarization of the population and the violation of the rights of the Eritrean citizens.  The European Union asked the Commission to provide details on its recent visits to five countries in Europe and Africa.

United States continued to urge the Government of Eritrea to take comprehensive steps to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.  It remained deeply concerned about the forced participation in the national service programme beyond the 18-month requirement and in the civilian militia.  The United States was also concerned about the severe restrictions on the enjoyment of the freedom of religion or belief, workers’ freedom of association and other rights, and the detention of journalists.  It asked about forms of cooperation that would be most helpful to the Commission of Inquiry in preparing its report.

Norway continued to be concerned about the grave human rights situation in Eritrea, and noted that it believed that Eritrea could benefit greatly from cooperation with the United Nations and with the Human Rights Council.  It reiterated its call on the Government of Eritrea to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry.  It asked the Commission to clarify the status with respect to the duration of the military service in the country. 

Venezuela did not support any initiatives specifically targeted against countries of the South, especially when mandates did not enjoy the support of the countries concerned.  The Commission of Inquiry mechanism violated the principle of sovereignty and did not enshrine the values of the United Nations Charter.  The Council must fulfil its mandate to promote and protect human rights on the basis of genuine cooperation and without using coercion and double standards.

Ghana said that Eritrea must endeavour to implement the Universal Periodic Review recommendations that it had accepted and to ratify all pending human rights instruments and implement them with the support of the international community.  No single country had a perfect human rights record, but all countries were obliged to demonstrate their commitment to improve and to uphold all the human rights and dignity of their peoples without exception.

Czech Republic expressed regret that the request of the Commission of Inquiry for the cooperation of the Government of Eritrea had not received response and that the Commission did not have an opportunity to visit the country.  The Czech Republic called on Eritrea to expeditiously hold free and fair elections for the National Assembly and other elected bodies, ensure the implementation of the Constitution, and discontinue the indefinite national service which had contributed to a serious refugee crisis.

Sudan said the promotion and protection of human rights was the primary responsibility of States.  International cooperation and assistance based on constructive dialogue could, however, not be neglected.  The success of the Special Procedures mechanisms, in particular country mandates, required the full consent of the concerned country and a high degree of cooperation between the mandate holder and the State in question.  Full respect of the principles of impartiality, non-selectivity and transparency was indispensable in preserving the effectiveness of the Human Rights Council. 

France deplored the non-cooperation by the Eritrean authorities with the Commission of Inquiry, particularly in light of the alarming human rights situation in the country, including mass restrictions on freedoms of expression and assembly, arbitrary detention and torture.  France encouraged Eritrea to fully implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture, which it had recently ratified.  France noted efforts in the field of maternal and child health and on combatting HIV/AIDS and malaria.  The increasing number of Eritreans fleeing the country showed the need for improvement. 

Australia shared the disappointment of the Commission of Inquiry about the lack of cooperation by Eritrea, and urged Eritrea to engage with it.  Australia remained deeply concerned about the systematic human rights violations in Eritrea, including extrajudicial killings, torture, compulsory military service, and reprisals against family members of people who had evaded military service.  It condemned efforts by the Eritrean authorities to impose a tax on the Eritrean diaspora, particularly measures to collect such a tax by way of extortion, threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means.  

Germany welcomed Eritrea’s accession to the United Nations Convention against Torture.  At the same time, every effort had to be made to end human rights violations, including in the judiciary, such as arbitrary arrests and inhumane detention conditions, as well as those linked to the national military service.  Germany called on the Government of Eritrea to respect, protect and promote the human rights of all persons without exception, and to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and to take its recommendations into account.   

Djibouti commended the work done by the Commission of Inquiry, and deplored the fact that the Government of Eritrea continued to hamper the important work of the Commission by not cooperating and not offering any response to the request to visit the country.  Djibouti remained deeply concerned by the plight of Djibouti prisoners of war detained in communicado in Eritrea.  Djibouti looked forward to the written report that would contain the findings and recommendations of the Commission to the Human Rights Council in June 2015, as well as detailed information on the whereabouts and health of the Djibouti prisoners of war.

Ireland welcomed the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry and the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.  It remained deeply concerned that the Constitution adopted in 1997 had not yet been implemented and that elections had not been held since 1993.  Gender-based violence was a major abuse of human rights, which could have a serious impact on women’s health, well-being and livelihood.  Ireland thus welcomed the decision of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate discrimination against women and sexual and gender-based violence in Eritrea. 

China said that differences in human rights should be resolved through dialogue and cooperation and that imposition and coercion would not bring about solutions.  China took positive note of the constructive participation of Eritrea in its Universal Periodic Review and its efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country.  The international community should take into consideration the challenges that Eritrea, as a developing country, faced in the promotion and protection of human rights, and provide constructive assistance in this field.

Switzerland remained particularly concerned about extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances, forced labour and indeterminate duration of the national military service in Eritrea, and said that it was essential to bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations.  This was the primary responsibility of the Government.  Switzerland said the Commission of Inquiry had the expertise to support this process, and Eritrea’s cooperation with the Commission would be beneficial to all.

United Kingdom shared the concerns raised by the Commission of Inquiry and asked about recent steps by Eritrea to ratify the Convention against Torture, and the support it had expressed for the call for the global moratorium on the death penalty.  It was disappointing that Eritrea refused to recognize the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in this country.  The United Kingdom called on the Government to honour its commitments and cooperate fully with the human rights system, including the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation, in a joint statement with Human Rights Concern, regretted that the Government of Eritrea had showed no interest in combatting gross and systematic human rights violations in the country.  There had been no improvement on the ground since the creation of the Commission of Inquiry.  Of particular concern was the forced military training in a harsh environment. 

Human Rights Watch regretted that Eritrea had refused access to the Commission of Inquiry, which showed that it feared international scrutiny.   There was no indication of progress, despite claims by the Eritrean authorities.  Eritreans who had aged out of national service now had to provide uncompensated service in a militia several times a week.  Human Rights Watch urged all neighbouring governments to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry. 

Article 19 said the Commission of Inquiry was a necessary mechanism, given the human rights violations perpetrated in Eritrea with impunity, including violation of freedom of expression.  Sixty-nine journalists had been detained without a fair trial for exercising their right to freedom of expression since 2001, and at least eight of them had died in detention.  Domestic laws were engineered to grant the regime the discretionary means to crush any hint of dissent, often in the name of the unending state of emergency. 

Amnesty International noted that thousands of individuals were arbitrarily detained in Eritrea in harsh conditions, without charge or trial, for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, to conscientious objection to military service, and for attempting to flee repression.  National service was compulsory and was frequently extended for indefinite periods. 

Concluding Remarks by the Concerned Country

Eritrea, speaking as the concerned country, said that, as in any other country, there were problems and challenges of human rights in Eritrea, but reiterated that there were no gross and systematic human rights violations.  The issue of the national service was being exploited; the national service was not indefinite but due to the prevailing environment of insecurity in the country it had been extended beyond the period of 18 months.  Eritrea had dealt with the issue of the Constitution in different other sessions and said that the writing of the new Constitution had already started, along with the finalization of national laws which were ready for proclamation.  The Council had not addressed the concerns of Eritrea, particularly the issue of accreditation of non-governmental organizations.

Concluding Remarks by the Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea

MIKE SMITH, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, in his concluding remarks, answered questions about particular challenges that the Commission encountered while visiting countries with significant numbers of Eritreans.  The collected personal stories were put together in order to find out what was going on in Eritrea.  A couple of more visits would be made in the next month before the completion of the report.  As for the issue of military service, the Commission was not able to gather any information about the issue.  A move towards changing the military service was a welcoming development, but still had to be confirmed.  The Commission believed that it could produce a credible report, but would prefer to visit the country and talk to people on the ground.  In the next month the Commission would visit Sweden, Germany and the United States.  Women were more deeply affected by the national service, as well as children through the effects of indefinite military service periods. 

SHEILA B. KEETHARUTH, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, said that Eritrea should be commended for combatting to abolish the practice of female genital mutilation.  However, the figures remain quite high and other measures needed to be taken to eradicate the practice.  The question had been dealt with in detail by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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