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Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the end of his visit to the Republic of Korea from 10 to 14 November 2014

SEOUL (14 November 2014) – This is the fourth visit to the Republic of Korea (RoK) in my capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). I thank the RoK Government for its excellent collaboration with my mandate, and generally all those who expressed support throughout the visit.

During my visit, I met with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Unification, the Office for National Security, the National Intelligence Service; members of the Human Rights Forum and the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the National Assembly; the Mayor of Seoul; representatives of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, non-governmental organizations and the diplomatic community.

My visit also coincided with the holding of the Fourth Korean Institute for National Unification (KINU) Chaillot Human Rights Forum in which I participated. I thank once again KINU for inviting me to this important event and for its support to my mandate over the years.

The purpose of the visit was to generally discuss what next steps should be taken following the release of the landmark report of the commission of inquiry on the situation of human rights in the DPRK. The commission documented and concluded that a number of long-standing and on-going patterns of systematic and widespread violations in the DPRK met the high threshold required for crimes against humanity in international law. It recommended, inter alia, that the human rights situation in DPRK be referred to the International Criminal Court, and effective targeted sanctions be taken against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity.

Thanks to the combined pressures and scrutiny the General Assembly and Human Rights Council have brought to bear, we are now seeing openings for dialogue with, and change in, the DPRK. In this regard, I believe a two-track approach should be taken: ensuring accountability of those responsible for serious human rights violations, and providing technical assistance to help make a difference in the lives of the people of North Korea, including victims. The ultimate goal is to create a peaceful and stable situation in the Korean peninsula.

As you may know, two weeks ago, I met for the first time since the establishment of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate ten years ago a delegation of senior DPRK officials in the margins of the on-going session of the General Assembly in New York. They invited me to undertake a full-fledged country visit in the near future, however under the condition that two operative paragraphs -on accountability of the Supreme Leader and possible referral to the International Criminal Court- contained in the draft EU-led resolution on the situation of human rights situation in DPRK be removed. Few days ahead of the vote by the Third Committee of the General Assembly on the resolution, let me be very clear: achieving accountability is paramount. I should be invited to visit DPRK without any preconditions and irrespective of the adoption of the resolution. I must say that this position was fully embraced by all the interlocutors I met during this week. From here on, it is important to already think of preparing the ground for accountability processes.

The meetings that I had have left me with a distinct belief that the national aspirations for reunification of the two Koreas into one single nation continue to be as strong as ever. In this connection, when reunification eventually takes place, addressing accountability for human rights violations can only make a positive contribution towards achieving this ultimate objective. I note the recent establishment of the Reunification Preparatory Committee which has an important task ahead. I hope to be able to interact with members of the Committee during my next visit to better understand its work.

It is imperative that the international community engages with DPRK to effectively implement the numerous recommendations (113 out of 268) it accepted during the second cycle of the universal periodic review. This should be undertaken with a view to initiating a concrete, systematic, sustained and targeted process to effect an immediate and overall betterment of the life conditions of North Koreans, especially the most vulnerable ones, including humanitarian support, irrespective of political considerations.

In this context, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) intends to establish a field-based structure tasked by the Human Rights Council with following up the work of the commission of inquiry. This structure will play an important role with regards to both tracks. OHCHR has been discussing administrative matters on the establishment of the field-based structure with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Seoul Metropolitan Government at the working level. Things are going along well in cooperation with the relevant organizations. An agreement on the matter may soon be reached.

During this visit, I was also briefed on the issue of abductions of RoK nationals by the DPRK. As recommended by the commission of inquiry, I will, jointly with the OHCHR and in consultation with various stakeholders, come up with a comprehensive strategy on international abductions and enforced disappearances in due course.

I was also informed that dialogue between RoK and DPRK on the reunion of separated families has been interrupted by the latter. Let me stress that dialogue between RoK and DPRK is of utmost importance to allow people of both Koreas to relate to each other in a positive manner. I hope that dialogue will soon resume in the interest of those families. I welcome the fact that RoK has continued to provide humanitarian assistance despite the unstable relations.

My attention was also drawn to the issue of North Korean nationals being sent abroad to work and are reportedly subjected by the DPRK Government into forced labour. This is an issue of serious concern to me, which I will look at closely in the future.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the crucial contribution of human rights non-governmental organizations in the completion of the report of the commission of inquiry. In furthering the work that remains to be done, the role of NGOs continues to be critical both in terms of achieving accountability and effecting the required changes in DPRK.

These are some of my preliminary observations, which I will elaborate in my report to the Human Rights Council in March 2015. I intend to travel to Japan on a similar assessment mission. The findings of that mission will also be incorporated into my next report to the Council.

I once again thank all whom who have taken time to meet with me during my visit, and look forward to further collaboration in pursuit of our cause.

Mr. Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in August 2010 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity. He has served in a three-member UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and chaired the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. In March 2013, the Human Rights Council designated Special Rapporteur Darusman to serve simultaneously on a three-member Commission of Inquiry to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave reports of violations of human rights in DPRK. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/KP/Pages/SRDPRKorea.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – DPRK: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KPIndex.aspx

For additional information and media requests, please contact Guillaume Pfeifflé (+41 79 752 0483 / gpfeiffle@ohchr.org).
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