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평화군축센터    한반도 평화를 위해 비핵군축운동을 합니다

  • English
  • 2005.02.14
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COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Sixty-first session

Item 9 of the provisional agenda

QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOM IN ANY PART OF THE WORLD

Written statement* submitted by the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), a non-governmental organization in special consultative status

Approaches for Improvement of Human Rights Situation in North Korea (DPRK)

Concerns over human rights situation in DPRK are mounting, while views on how to improve it find little common ground and efforts to collect factual data run into grave difficulties.

We note that the 59th and 60th sessions of UN Commission on Human Rights have adopted resolutions condemning North Korea's human rights abuses and the 60th session appointed Special Rapporteur on NK situation. The first report submitted by the Rapporteur in January 2005 is duly appreciated.

We note with appreciation constructive elements suggested by the Rapporteur, underlying the context we have to consider in order to understand issues of North Korea human rights, specific challenge for civil, political, social, economic rights, and his recommendations. At the same time, we regret that the report has not sufficiently assessed positive actions by DPRK government such as the revision of the criminal law and efforts towards inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation, initial signs of important changes. The main question is, we believe, how to link various recommendations for the improvement of human rights situation in DPRK with steps to transform the perilous environment surrounding the country, created by regional and global power politics, clearly beyond the scope of what one government could aspire to do, that impedes both local and international efforts for the promotion of human rights in DPRK.

In this regard, we would like to emphasize that the DPRK’s active efforts must go along with international community’s pragmatic and consultative approach. We cannot deny that DPRK government and its policy are at the root of various violations of human rights of its people. Admitting that the most important responsibility for worsening human rights situation is ascribed to the government would lead to affirmative steps for the improvement of human rights. The DPRK government should also open access to human rights information of its people. We hope that the DPRK government takes such initiatives and invite international community to give necessary support to admit DPRK as a member of the community.

At the same time, we hope and stress that international community recognize and work together on the matters of ‘external factors’ that affect isolation and confrontation of DPRK with its neighboring countries. We need to recognize the real and potential effects of the economic sanctions, arms build-up, and large-scale military exercises constantly occurring in the region, which involve questionable role played by the government of the United States. The impact of ‘security’ approach to human rights is worsening since the government of the United States took the path of labeling DPRK as ‘a rogue state’ and ‘an axis of evil.’

A great contrast is that there has been steady and substantial growth of mutual understanding and trust-building process between two Koreas. This should shed light on our thinking and actions in the future. The constructive role played by non-governmental organizations in this process also deserves proper attention.

History and reality in Northeast Asia show that improvement of human rights in a country tends to work better with careful review of conditions for and against peace than without. This leads us to take a more comprehensive and balanced review and actions. In this light, we put forward some principles of engagement in the human rights problems in the region as follows.

First, the right to life and eradication of the conditions for poverty and famine should receive the utmost attention in considering the human rights issues in the DPRK. Human rights improvement would be immaterial if there is sustained hunger among large population. The first priority in addressing human rights issues in North Korea is the people’s right to survival.

Second, international engagement in the North Korea must not threaten the peace in region. Approaches attending conflict and confrontation with little practical alternatives cannot do much. The peaceful coexistence of all nations in the region is the basic premise for securing human rights of the peoples in the region. This point is well taken in the development of inter-Korea relationship and the cooperation between governments and non-governmental organizations in the process. Least desirable in this situation is politically-motivated approaches in the name of human rights, such as the North Korean Human Rights Act by the United States.

Third, international community needs a set of principles for intervening in North Korean human rights issues: the intervention must be performed in a just, consultative and peaceful way by actors equipped with ethical and human-rights legitimacy. The engagement in the human rights issues must have the universal cause and thus selective actions informed by power-politics must be strictly avoided.

Fourth, holistic standards of human rights should be applied to the human rights issues in North Korea, including standards of not only political and civil rights, but also those of economic, social, and cultural rights, and right to development as agreed in the United Nations. Selective choice of standards would lead to weakening or even denial of the legitimacy of international intervention.

Considering these aspects, we recommend the following points to be included in the discussion of the human rights situation in DPRK in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

First, as the Special Rapporteur pointed out, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should express clear understanding of the highly complex internal and external contexts affecting human rights in DPRK and recommend her to improve human rights situation accordingly and through a holistic approach.

Second, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights needs to place emphasis on the necessity of continuing humanitarian aids to DPRK including food and energy supply in order to assist her government to protect the right to life of her people. In effect, the food aid of international community since 1990’s has contributed considerably to the alleviation of North Korea’s food crisis. Nevertheless, North Korea is still in urgent need of food supply and social network for people is not properly working.

Third, as all human rights are inter-dependent and inalienable, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should include the right to self-determination and the right to development in its review and recommendation to DPRK. To this effect, it should review issues in international aid, socio-political policies, and legal system, not excluding issues of military conflict, arms build-up and economic sanctions in the region and the role played by all the governments involved. We urge that the UNCHR call upon relieving military tensions and reducing militarisation in the region to create favorable conditions for the improvement of human rights in both Koreas, and emphasize the need for trust-building, consultation and cooperation among all concerned governments in the region.

Fourth, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should pay attention to the fact that North Korea complemented ‘the principle of legality’ through, among others, revision of criminal law in 2004. She is also appeasing punishment for repatriated defectors. The UNCHR also needs to recognize that the North Korea government is giving minor penalty to those who had escaped for economic matters. Along with other positive signs, these form an important base for further steps.

Fifth, in view of the level of difficulty experienced in collecting accurate information as well as the political sensitivity of it, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights needs to emphasize the importance of date collection and fact verification before devising ways of improving human rights in DPRK. For example, it needs to do a comprehensive examination on the reported information of ‘forced labor’ and ‘infanticide’, about which the last UN resolution showed grave concerns.

Finally, we urge the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to make specific measures to provide basic rights and freedom to the persons escaping or temporarily leaving DPRK and residing in PRC. Escapers from DPRK are now in the blind spot of human rights. It is a duty of the United Nations and international community to protect rights of those people. The DPRK and PRC governments need to do the most to protect the basic rights of migrants from DPRK, and stop forced repatriation and punishment for those who escaped North Korea for humanitarian reasons. The UNCHR should also note the complexity of the situation caused by some undesirable effects such as that produced by the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act in the United States and the work of “designed defection” of North Koreans promoted by some NGOs.

Center for Peace and Disarmament
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