Joint open letters to the UN General Assembly and the EU High Representative about human rights in North Korea

Oct 14, 2020 | Uncategorized

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UN Report – North Korea’s record on human right makes it a “State without parallel”

Joint open letters to the UN General Assembly and the EU High Representative about human rights in North Korea

October 14, 2020

Joint open letter to the UN General Assembly concerning the resolution on the situation of human rights in North Korea to be adopted at its 75th session

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of 37 non-governmental organizations, coalitions, and concerned individuals from 7 different countries worldwide to urge the UN General Assembly to make every effort to highlight the on-going systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations, including those that amount to crimes against humanity, and appropriate actions to be taken by the stakeholders in the annual resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at its 75th session.

At the outset, we recognize the critical role played by the UN General Assembly and its member states with the annual resolutions on North Korean human rights since 2005 that have among other things consistently endorsed the findings and recommendations of the landmark UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation of human rights in North Korea.

The COI concluded that the DPRK committed crimes against humanity—entailing summary executions, torture, systematic rape, forced abortions, infanticides, persecution, abductions and forced disappearances—against inmates of political prison camps (kwanliso), repatriated refugees and migrants, Christians, starving populations and foreigners, namely South Korean and Japanese citizens and ethnic Korean from Japan as well as unknown number of women abducted from Europe, the Middle East and Asia subjected to forced marriage.

The consistent support from the UN General Assembly and its member states for the Security Council to refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) was also critical in the Security Council’s annual discussion of the situation of human rights in North Korea in 2014-2017.

The long struggle to improve the situation of human rights in North Korea requires firm resolve by the UN General Assembly and its member states, who can express such resolve in the most public and authoritative way and send a clear message that the systematic, widespread and gross violations, as identified by the COI, cannot continue.

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, we must take increased devotion to the cause of universal human rights as they come under unprecedented challenges as governments resort to draconian measures often under the pretext of combating the pandemic.

We recently received the shocking news that North Korean troops held and executed a South Korean government official who had drifted into North Korean waters, and that his remains were burned at sea on September 22, 2020. Reportedly, all this was in accordance with Pyongyang’s shoot-to-kill order to prevent coronavirus from entering the country.

In this context, we urge the inclusion of following recommendations to North Korea in the resolution to be adopted at the 75th session of the General Assembly:

  1. Political prisoners and the death penalty: Close all political prison camps (kwanliso) and release all political prisoners; respect the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, reduce the offenses punishable by the death penalty, publish detailed statistics and procedure regarding death sentence and executions, introduce a moratorium on executions with a view to abolition;
  2. Sexual violence: End the widespread prevalence of forced abortion upon pregnant mothers repatriated from China and infanticide of their children to preserve a “pure Korean race”; cease rape and denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide in political prison camps (kwanliso);
  3. Right to food: Promote equal access to and distribution of food without discrimination based on songbun, North Korea’s sociopolitical classification of its citizens, or privileging of Pyongyang residents, including through full transparency and independent needs assessment by international aid organizations, in particular for vulnerable persons, including women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons and individuals in detention;
  4. Liberty of movement: Ensure the freedom to leave one’s own country, including for the purpose of seeking asylum by ending the practice of shooting those who try to cross the border and sending agents to abduct the escapees and the foreign nationals who help them, and, urge states to comply with their obligations to observe the principle of non-refoulement under the Refugee Convention and Torture Convention;
  5. International abductions: Return the foreign abductees, namely the nationals of South Korea and Japan and ethnic Koreans from Japan since the Korean War, including the at least six South Korean citizens that continue to be detained and the eleven hostages of the Korean Air YS-11 hijacking terror, as well as unknown number of women abducted from Europe, the Middle East and Asia for forced marriage; and
  6. COVID-19 pandemic: Respect and ensure the right to life, liberty and security of person, the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other fundamental rights and freedoms of North Korean and foreign citizens at all time in fighting the pandemic

We further request the resolution to call upon states to observe the principle of non-refoulement vis-à-vis North Korea especially for the protection of the right not to be subjected to torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty and security of person; to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of committing international crimes in North Korea under the principle of aut dedere aut judicare; to request the High Commissioner to increase the visibility of the work and findings by the OHCHR, including its field-based structure in Seoul, by hiring public relations officer(s); and to encourage the United Nations to facilitate standardization in documentation and access to open sources.

The UN General Assembly has an opportunity and responsibility to uphold the human rights of the North Korean people with this upcoming resolution. We need not reiterate that the North Korean people are entitled to human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the dignity and worth of the human person, as reaffirmed by the peoples of the United Nations.

Sincerely,

Thank you for your consideration. We would be pleased to discuss these matters further with your staff.

Groups

1969 KAL Abductees’ Families AssociationSouth Korea
Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)United Kingdom
BALAOD MindanawPhilippines
Beyond the BoundarySouth Korea
Christian Solidarity WorldwideUnited Kingdom
Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR)South Korea
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)United States of America
Human AsiaSouth Korea
Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG)United States of America
Human Rights FoundationUnited States of America
Improving North Korean Human Rights CenterSouth Korea
Institute for Transitional Justice and Integration (ITJI)South Korea
International Child Rights Center (InCRC)South Korea
Justice For North KoreaSouth Korea
Korea Future InitiativeUnited Kingdom
Korean War Abductees Family Union (KWAFU)South Korea
Korean War POW Family AssociationSouth Korea
Lawyers for human rights and unification of KoreaSouth Korea
Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) 
LUMENUnited States of America
Network for North Korean Democracy and Human RightsSouth Korea
No Chain for North KoreaUnited States of America
North Korea Strategy CenterSouth Korea
Now Action & Unity for Human rightsSouth Korea
Open North KoreaSouth Korea
People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE)South Korea
Rohingya Human Rights NetworkCanada
Stepping StonesUnited Kingdom
The 88 ProjectUnited States of America
Transitional Justice Working GroupSouth Korea
Unification AcademySouth Korea
Unification Media GroupSouth Korea
Unification Strategy InstitutionSouth Korea

Individuals

David Alton, LordIndependent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords & Co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea 
Sonja BiserkoFormer Commission of Inquiry (COI) member on the situation of human rights in the DPRK & current chair at the Helsinki Human Rights Committee in Serbia
Yanghee Lee, Ph.D.Former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar / Former Chairperson of UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
Vitit MuntarbhornFormer UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK

===================================
October 14, 2020

Josep Borrell Fontelles
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission
European External Action Service
1046 Brussels, Belgium

  Joint open letter concerning the UN General Assembly’s 2020 resolution on North Korean Human Rights

Your Excellency,
We are writing on behalf of 37 non-governmental organizations, coalitions, and concerned individuals from 7 different countries worldwide to urge the European Union to make every effort to highlight the on-going systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations, including those that amount to crimes against humanity, and appropriate actions to be taken by the stakeholders in the annual resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that is expected to be adopted by the 75th UN General Assembly.
At the outset, we recognize the critical role played by the European Union and its Member States as the consistent champions of North Korean human rights at the UN, sponsoring the first resolutions adopted by the then-Commission on Human Rights in 2003 and by the General Assembly in 2005 as well as the subsequent resolutions that established the landmark UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation of human rights in North Korea in 2013 and endorsed its findings and recommendations.
The COI concluded that the DPRK committed crimes against humanity—entailing summary executions, torture, systematic rape, forced abortions, infanticides, persecution, abductions and forced disappearances—against inmates of political prison camps (kwanliso); repatriated refugees and migrants; Christians; starving populations; and foreigners, namely South Korean and Japanese citizens and ethnic Korean from Japan as well as unknown number of women abducted from Europe, the Middle East and Asia subjected to forced marriage.
The unwavering support from the EU and its Member States for the Security Council to refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) was also critical in the Security Council’s annual discussion of the situation of human rights in North Korea in 2014-2017.
We believe it is now imperative for the EU, as the penholder of the General Assembly’s resolutions to send a clear message that the systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights, as identified by the COI, cannot continue.
In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, we must take increased devotion to the cause of universal human rights as they come under unprecedented challenges as governments resort to draconian measures often under the pretext of combating the pandemic.
We recently received the shocking news that North Korean troops held and executed a South Korean government official who had drifted into North Korean waters, and that his remains were burned at sea on September 22, 2020. Reportedly, all this was in accordance with Pyongyang’s shoot-to-kill order to prevent coronavirus from entering the country.
In this context, we urge the inclusion of following recommendations to North Korea in the draft resolution to be tabled by the EU and its Member States during the 75th session of the General Assembly:
1.      Political prisoners and the death penalty: Close all political prison camps (kwanliso) and release all political prisoners; respect the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, reduce the offenses punishable by the death penalty, publish detailed statistics and procedure regarding death sentence and executions, introduce a moratorium on executions with a view to abolition;
2.      Sexual violence: End the widespread prevalence of forced abortion upon pregnant mothers repatriated from China and infanticide of their children to preserve a “pure Korean race”; cease rape and denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide in political prison camps (kwanliso);
3.      Right to food: Promote equal access to and distribution of food without discrimination based on songbun, North Korea’s sociopolitical classification of its citizens, or privileging of Pyongyang residents, including through full transparency and independent needs assessment by international aid organizations, in particular for vulnerable persons, including women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons and individuals in detention;
4.      Liberty of movement: Ensure the freedom to leave one’s own country, including for the purpose of seeking asylum by ending the practice of shooting those who try to cross the border and sending agents to abduct the escapees and the foreign nationals who help them, and, urge states to comply with their obligations to observe the principle of non-refoulement under the Refugee Convention and Torture Convention;
5.      International abductions: Return the foreign abductees, namely the nationals of South Korea and Japan and ethnic Koreans from Japan since the Korean War, including the at least six South Korean citizens that continue to be detained and the eleven hostages of the Korean Air YS-11 hijacking terror, as well as unknown number of women abducted from Europe, the Middle East and Asia for forced marriage; and
6.      COVID-19 pandemic: Respect and ensure the right to life, liberty and security of person, the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other fundamental rights and freedoms of North Korean and foreign citizens at all time in fighting the pandemic
We further request the resolution to call upon states to observe the principle of non-refoulementvis-à-vis North Korea especially for the protection of the right not to be subjected to torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty and security of person; to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of committing international crimes in North Korea under the principle of aut dedere aut judicare; to request the High Commissioner to increase the visibility of the work and findings by the OHCHR, including its field-based structure in Seoul, by hiring public relations officer(s); and to encourage the United Nations to facilitate standardization in documentation and access to open sources.
In the upcoming resolution of the General Assembly, the EU has an historic opportunity and responsibility to uphold the human rights of the North Korean people. We need not reiterate that the North Korean people are entitled to the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity, upon which the EU is founded, according to its Charter of Fundamental Right.
Thank you for your consideration. We would be pleased to discuss these matters further with your staff.

Sincerely,

Groups
1969 KAL Abductees’ Families Association
South Korea


Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)
United Kingdom


BALAOD Mindanaw
Philippines


Beyond the Boundary
South Korea


Christian Solidarity Worldwide
United Kingdom


Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR)
South Korea


Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)
United States of America


Human Asia
South Korea


Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG)
United States of America


Human Rights Foundation
United States of America


Improving North Korean Human Rights Center
South Korea


Institute for Transitional Justice and Integration (ITJI)
South Korea


International Child Rights Center (InCRC)
South Korea


Justice For North Korea
South Korea


Korea Future Initiative
United Kingdom


Korean War Abductees Family Union (KWAFU)
South Korea


Korean War POW Family Association
South Korea


Lawyers for human rights and unification of Korea
South Korea


Liberty in North Korea (LiNK)



LUMEN
United States of America


Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights
South Korea


No Chain for North Korea
United States of America


North Korea Strategy Center
South Korea


Now Action & Unity for Human Rights (NAUH)
South Korea


Open North Korea
South Korea


People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE)
South Korea


Rohingya Human Rights Network
Canada


Stepping Stones
United Kingdom


The 88 Project
United States of America


Transitional Justice Working Group
South Korea


Unification Academy
South Korea


Unification Media Group
South Korea


Unification Strategy Institution
South Korea




Individuals
David Alton, Lord
Independent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords & Co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea 
Sonja Biserko
Former Commission of Inquiry (COI) member on the situation of human rights in the DPRK & current chair at the Helsinki Human Rights Committee in Serbia
Yanghee Lee, Ph.D.
Former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar / Former Chairperson of UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
Vitit Muntarbhorn
Former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK

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