Statement by Nada Al- Nashif United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
Presentation of the HC’s report on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
I am honoured to present the High Commissioner’s report on promoting accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), pursuant to resolutions 49/22 and 46/17.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In its seminal report, the Commission of Inquiry concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed and continued to be committed in the DPRK.
OHCHR has gathered and analysed a significant amount of information on serious human rights violations and possible international crimes since the creation of a Field Based Structure in Seoul in 2015. It continues to do so, despite a lack of cooperation from the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a lack of access to the country and the closure of its borders since early 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic. We are accutely conscious of the worrying food security and broader humanitarian needs in the DPRK and of course their impact on economic, social and cultural rights.
In line with the mandate given by this Council, this report presents a summary of the work done by our Office on accountability. This is just one element of our broader monitoring of the human rights situation, but also what we hope could be a broader engagement to assist the authorities in fulfilling their international human rights obligations.
The Office has conducted interviews with people from the DPRK, recently arrived in the Republic of Korea, in order to collect information about the situation in the country. These interviews and analysis form a crucial part of the information that our Office is compiling in the central information and evidence repository mandated by the Council. The repository is a comprehensive database of information on human rights violations in the DPRK, some of which may amount to international crimes. The aim is to preserve such information for use in any future accountability processes.
Our Office continues to develop strategies to promote judicial and non-judicial approaches to accountability at the domestic and international levels. We have provided support and technical advice to partners seeking to pursue legal accountability through civil litigation, criminal prosecutions including under principles of universal jurisdiction, and targeted human rights sanctions.
During the period under review, the Office has collected and analysed information about the program of overseas forced labour organized and controlled by the Government of the DPRK. These workers are being sent overseas by the Government and placed in jobs that are physically arduous and often times dangerous. Interviews reported they had to pay a large portion of their wages to the Government.
OHCHR is also collecting information from women who were trafficked into neighbouring countries, sometimes for marriage or work. Our Office prioritizes the collection of information relevant to sexual and gender-based crimes, and calls on the DPRK and relevant Member States to introduce measures aimed at alleviating the conditions that lead to trafficking and decreasing the demand for trafficked persons.
The report offers preliminary observations from a series of consultations being carried out by the Office with victims, affected communities and other relevant stakeholders with a view to including their views into avenues for accountability, as requested in Human Rights Council resolution 46/17.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has an obligation as the primary duty bearer to protect and uphold the human rights of its citizens. OHCHR stands ready to assist in this respect. I encourage the Government to explore opportunities for technical cooperation and engagement with our Office to promote human rights in the country and provide us with access to the country and to information about the current situation of human rights.
I call on the Council to continue to strengthen its support for the work being conducted by OHCHR, including the Office’s field-based structure in Seoul, by providing the necessary resources and support on a sustainable, long-term basis. I also call on this Council and the Member States to engage with the Office in supporting possible strategies for accountability.
Today’s debate is an opportunity to renew commitment to seeking accountability for serious human rights violations and possible international crimes committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Victims have the right to justice and to full and adequate reparations. The human rights of the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must not be forgotten.