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Thursday, August 6, 2020
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 2014 (IPS) - A recommendation to take North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), based on the findings of a recent inquiry, is a rare opportunity for the international community to act, says the head of a Human Rights Commission.
Justice Michael Kirby, head of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the Human Rights situation in North Korea, said last week:, “Action is what is needed when human rights have been abused for so long as in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” (DPRK, also known as North Korea)
Kirby added North Korea is “not outside the international community, they are a member of the United Nations, they are a party to the charter of the United Nations.”
“It is the responsibility of the whole United Nations system to protect the people when their country let’s them down.”
Representatives from the DPRK, responding to the report’s findings, said last week that its purpose was to “overthrow our political system by creating political confrontation.”
Kirby responded by saying he and his colleagues on the Commission of Inquiry– from Australia, Serbia and Indonesia — had no reason to be politically motivated against North Korea and that their findings were based on the public testimonies of North Koreans.
Human Rights Watch Senior Counsel Param-Preet Singh told IPS that since the COI report was released in February there has been progress in terms of international engagement.
She said the report provided support for a resolution before the U.N. General Assembly by Japan and the European Union, which proposes that the U.N. Security Council refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Singh said there has also been progress in terms of North Korea beginning to engage more with the international community, but that there hasn’t been progress in terms of their human rights policies or practices in North Korea.
“We’ve got to make the most of this COI report, so that’s why the time is now, for the international community to take action. If they don’t do it now, it’s hard to imagine more compelling circumstances under which they will be pressed to do something.” Singh told IPS.
“The General Assembly resolution is an important opportunity for the international community to stand together with the victims of North Korea’s policies.”
“The stronger support there is for the resolution from the members of the General Assembly the more pressure it puts on the Security Council to take action,” she said.
“There’s been mounting pressure to do something about North Korea. When the COI report first came out in February Justice Kirby reiterated, we can no longer say we didn’t know and now is the time to take action. That prognosis has very much been reflected in the actions that have been followed by states.” Singh said.
The findings of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) are based on hearings held in Seoul, South Korea, where North Koreans gave public testimonies.
Singh said instead of this being a limitation of the report, the fact that the COI was not permitted access to North Korea, reinforces the need for the inquiry.
Two of the North Koreans who provided evidence at the Commission of Inquiry spoke at the United Nations on Wednesday. Kim Hye-Sook described how she was sent to prison camp number 18 at the age of 14 and how she and her family were so hungry they ate grass and acorns.
“Rule Number One was that you shouldn’t ask why you were there, what is the name of your crime, and if you ask, many people were publicly executed for that.” Kim said.
Kim was sent to work in the coalmines at the age of 16 and worked there for 14 years. She said that many of the workers didn’t live past 40 because of the rock dust and that she herself now has pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung disease.
“As long as I could breathe and I could speak, I decided that I really need to work for North Korean human rights,” Kim said.
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