The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated on Monday that now is the time for an international inquiry in to human rights abuses in North Korea. Ms. Pillay also said that the international community must do more to tackle the human rights crisis in North Korea.
The High Commissioner said that there had been "almost no sign of improvement" of the human rights abuses following the elevation of Kim Jong Eun to power.
Ms. Pillay also was concerned about the focus of the international community on nuclear weapons. She said that this issue, while important, should not be allowed to overshadow the human rights problem. She went on to describe the situation in North Korea as having "no parallel anywhere else in the world."
Last December, the High Commissioner met with two North Koreans who had been imprisoned in North Korea's reprehensible political prison camps. She said that, "They described a system that represents the very antithesis of international human rights norms. We know so little about these camps, and what we do know comes largely from the relatively few refugees who have managed to escape from the country. The highly developed system of international human rights protection that has had at least some positive impact in almost every country in the world, seems to have completely bypassed DPRK, where self-imposed isolation has allowed the government to mistreat its citizens to a degree that should be unthinkable in the 21st century."
Ms. Pillay described some of the human rights violations within the camp when she said that, "The camp system not only punishes individuals for legitimate, peaceful activities – such as expressing dissenting opinions – it also involves rampant violations, including torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment, summary executions, rape, slave labour, and forms of collective punishment that may amount to crimes against humanity." Ms. Pillay went on to describe some of the conditions in the camps. She said that, "Living conditions in the camps are also reported to be atrocious, with totally insufficient food supplies, little or no medical care and inadequate clothing. One mother described to me how she had wrapped her baby in leaves when it was born, and later made her a blanket by sewing together old socks."
Pillay also outlined some of the inadequacies of the judicial system in North Korea. She said that, "The death penalty seems to be often applied for minor offenses and after wholly inadequate judicial processes, or sometimes without any judicial process at all." Commenting on the fate of camp inmates, she said that, "People who try to escape and are either caught, or sent back, face terrible reprisals including execution, torture and incarceration, often with their entire extended family."
The High Commissioner in the past met with some of the families of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea. She firmly said on the matter of the abductions that, "There is an urgent need to clarify the fate of the many South Koreans and Japanese, abducted by DPRK over the years, as well as the countless civilians in the South rounded up and taken to the North during the Korean War, and to seek truth, justice and redress for their long-suffering families."
Ms. Pillay continued by calling for further action by the international community to tackle the human rights violations in North Korea. She said that, "I believe it is time the international community took a much firmer step towards finding the truth and applying serious pressure to bring about change for this beleaguered, subjugated population of 20 million people."
As both the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council had adopted resolutions on the deplorable human rights situation, the High Commissioner finished her comments by saying that, "For years now, the Government of DPRK has persistently refused to cooperate with successive Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the DPRK appointed by the Human Rights Council, or with my Office,” the High Commissioner said. “For this reason, and because of the enduring gravity of the situation, I believe an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst – but least understood and reported – human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue."