NORTH KOREA: Crimes against humanity must be probed by an international enquiry, says UN expert

Summary: In introducing his report to the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, urged the international community to launch an inquiry to probe and further document “the grave, systematic and widespread violations of human rights and possible crimes against humanity" in the country.

In a detailed report to the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Darusman identifies nine patterns of human rights violations ranging from torture and enslavement, to enforced disappearances and murder. “I believe that many, if not, all of these nine patterns, may amount to crimes against humanity, committed as part of systematic and/or widespread attacks against civilian population.”

“I call for the establishment of an inquiry mechanism with adequate resources to investigate and document grave, systematic and widespread violations of human rights, and report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, to examine the issue of institutional and personal accountability for such violations, in particular where they amount to crimes against humanity,” the human rights expert said.

Mr. Darusman’s report has reviewed no fewer than 60 international documents on the situation of human rights in North Korea, including 16 resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council and its predecessor the Commission on Human Rights, and 22 reports by his, as the Special Rapporteur on DPRK, and the Secretary-General.

Violation of the right to food

“The issue is not simply lack of food for the population, but rather the manipulative control of food distribution by the regime. The authorities seek to control the food distribution process as a means of controlling the population and making them dependent on the regime.”

Torture and inhuman treatment

“Some of the most flagrant human rights violations, such as torture and detention without due process of law,” are reported to be perpetrated in detention and correctional facilities.”

Arbitrary detention

“One particularly worrying practice, widely documented by the United Nations, is detention due to guilt by association: when a person is punished for a political or ideological crime, members of his or her family are also punished.”

Prison camps

“Apart from the official correctional centres, North Korea is reported to have been operating a number of ‘political concentration camps’, collection centres and labour training camps.”


“The Government divides the population into three different groups: those close to the regime (the core mass), the group in the middle (the basic mass), and those considered hostile to the regime (the complex mass). These divisions affect people’s access to basic rights and services.”

Violations of freedom of expression

“The Criminal Code provides for punishments, including short-term labour, for a person who listens to broadcasts that are hostile to the Republic or collects, keeps or distributes enemy propaganda, which can be broadly interpreted to restrict people in the exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression or to allow the Government to place severe restrictions on independent media in the country.”

Violations of the right to life

“In relation to political prisoners, the lives of inmates are lost too easily to hunger and slave labour, brutality and atrocity. There is, however, little detail in United Nations documentation describing instances of death in custody or as a consequence of torture.”

Violations of freedom of movement

“In the Democratic People’s republic of Korea, it is a criminal offence for citizens to leave the country without permission. Therefore, punishment facing citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who have been repatriated from abroad raises serious concern.”

Enforced disappearances, including abduction of foreign nationals

“Since the Korean war, 3,824 people have been reportedly abducted from the Republic of Korea, of which 3,310 have been returned after having been held for 6 months to a year. An estimated 500 civilians abducted and 500 prisoners of war are currently being detained in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which denies the existence of such abductees. Countries such as Japan, Lebanon, and Thailand have reported such abductions.”

Since his appointment in August 2010, the Special Rapporteur has made several requests to visit DPRK, which has so far not been honoured.


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