UN Security Council discusses North Korea’s human rights

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UN Security Council discusses North Korea’s human rights

The United Nations Security Council on Friday discussed human rights violations in North Korea for the third year in a row - despite attempts by China to keep it off the agenda.

Pyongyang’s human rights record was accepted as an agenda item in the 15-member council on Friday with nine countries to accept it, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Japan, five voting against it, including China and Russia, and one abstention by Senegal.

Member states at the meeting demonstrated that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was the focus of their discussion of systematic human rights abuses, even mentioning him by name several times.

The U.S Treasury in July blacklisted Kim for human rights abuses along with ten other officials, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power named these 11 individuals during the meeting.

“We are methodically documenting your abuses and your impunity will not last forever,” she said in a warning to North Korean officials. “When the day comes that you are publicly held accountable, we will be ready.”

Cho Tae-yul, South Korea’s new ambassador to the UN, referred to the “North Korean leader” three times during the meeting although he did not use his name.

“The North Korean leader is maintaining a reign of terror in order to maintain his regime,” said Cho, “and disregarding the plight of the people and their livelihoods, using their scarce resources for the development of nuclear weapons and missiles.”

He continued, “The North Korean leader perhaps believes that nuclear weapons and missile development will protect him till the end. But that is a delusion.”

Cho added, “The North Korean human rights issue is not just a human rights problem but has to be dealt with holistically within the frame of the North Korean regime and leadership.”

Andrew Gilmour, assistant secretary-general for human rights, said, “There has been no improvement in the truly appalling human rights violations in the country.”

He elaborated that in the past 12 months, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights conducted more than 110 interviews with persons who had left North Korea.

The General Assembly in its resolution this year again encouraged the Security Council to consider referring the North Korean human rights situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), as it has done since 2014.

The council first put North Korea’s human rights on its agenda in December 2014, following a landmark report by the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea, which concluded that senior members of North Korea’s military regime, including Kim Jong-un, had committed or overseen a broad range of crimes against humanity. Such human rights violations included extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape and forced abortions. It advised the UN Security Council to bring the issue to the ICC.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Sunday condemned the UN Security Council’s meeting and for discussing its human rights situation for a third consecutive year.

A spokesman of the North’s Foreign Ministry said through the regime’s official Korean Central News Agency, “The United States, disregarding the UN Charter and the opposition of many countries,” raised the North Korea human rights situation in the Security Council, which it said was a “hideous act.”

On Nov. 30, the Security Council adopted a resolution that bolstered sanctions on North Korea, especially curtailing its coal exports, to get it to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

One month ago, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee passed a North Korean human rights resolution, which is expected to be formally adopted by the assembly later this month.

BY LEE SANG-RYEOL, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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