Archive for the 'North Korea (DPRK)' Category

UN Watch empowers North Korean defectors

This week, UN Watch hosted a delegation of NK Watch, a South Korean NGO which was created by survivors of North Korean prison camps and their families.

The delegation comprised of Ahn Myeong Cheol, NK’s Watch Executive Director and a former prison guard in the North Korean regime’s brutal gulag; Gim Gyumin, a North Korean defector and film director who has integrated the abuses he witnessed into his movies; Mr. Kim, a former North Korean overseas worker in Russia who escaped and defected to South Korea; and Dasun Kim, manager of International Affairs at NK Watch.

During their stay in Geneva, NK Watch members addressed the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on the issue of the North Korean overseas workers, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Slavery and the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and Enforced Disappearances. They also addressed the Human Rights Council plenary during the report of the Special Rapporteur on North Korea. The Rapporteur pledged to look into the issue of the workers and coordinate with other UN mechanisms.

IMG_3814 (700x253)

UN Watch and NK Watch held a film screening at the Palais des Nations, attended by more than 80 people, showing the movie “Winter Butterfly,” which describes the famine and the abuse of ordinary citizens of North Korea. Following the screening, a Q&A session with film director Gim Gyumin followed, as well as a testimony of Mr. Kim on his experiences as a North Korean Overseas worker.

Lastly, UN Watch facilitated a press conference for the NK Watch delegation, as well as individual interviews, getting worldwide coverage, including Reuters, Agence France Presse, Press Trust India, Deutsche Welle and Vice.


Today: As UN debates North Korean human rights, 20 famous survivors of atrocities urge Switzerland to freeze regime bank accounts

GENEVA, September 19, 2014 – When the UN rights council this morning debates North Korea’s record, a human rights NGO will take the floor to present an open letter sent today by 20 North Korean defectors to Swiss president Didier Burkhalter calling to freeze the regime’s bank accounts held in the country.

“The international community must show that it truly cares for the suffering people of North Korea with deeds—not just words,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group that will present the letter in an intervention during today’s Universal Periodic Review debate on North Korea.

“As a Swiss NGO, we begin by asking our own country to show moral leadership. To its credit, Switzerland sponsored the UNHRC resolution that created an excellent commission of inquiry, and the UNHRC resolution that specifically called for ‘effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity.'” Continue reading ‘Today: As UN debates North Korean human rights, 20 famous survivors of atrocities urge Switzerland to freeze regime bank accounts’

Crimes Against Humanity… But Keep Up the Good Work

Today, the barbaric North Korean regime tried to whitewash its human rights record as it underwent a mandatory review before the UN Human Rights Council.

A UN Commission of Inquiry recently found Pyongyang guilty of crimes against humanity. Yet today the regime denied the existence of political prison camps, the practice of public executions, and the limitation of travel. It blamed external forces for much of the country’s malaise.

Regrettably, several other nations backed North Korea, echoing the regime’s propaganda and providing a false image of the human rights situation there. Examples:

  • Iran: “We would like to commend North Korea’s constructive engagement in the UPR process.”
  • Venezuela: “Despite the blockade that has been imposed on the country, North Korea has free and universal medical care and has modernized certain health and production centers.”
  • China: “We commend DPRK for adopting legislative and admin measures.”
  • Laos: “We are pleased to note that the DPRK has ratified several human rights conventions.”
  • Syria: “We would like to congratulate the realization of the right to education and the right to health.”

Nevertheless, several countries took the floor to hold the regime to account in a serious fashion, including Greece, the Czech Republic, Canada, U.S., UK, Sweden, and Poland.

North Korea, 4.5 years late, rejects all meaningful UPR recommendations

When nations are reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), it is customary that they identify which recommendations they accept or reject during the HRC session that follows the UPR and formally adopts the report. But North Korea did so only this week, 4.5 years later, ahead of its scheduled review today. Regrettably, it rejected all meaningful recommendations. These include:

• Cooperate with all UN special rapporteurs, including the rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, right to food, violence against women and torture.
• Provide unlimited access to ICRC to all detention facilities in the country.
• Decriminalize unauthorized travel.

Recommendations that were rejected on the ground in December 2009 include:

• Grant access, as a matter of priority, to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea.
• Abolishing the death penalty, end all public and extrajudicial executions, practice of arbitrary detention and torture.
• Put an end to kidnapping and enforced disappearance of persons, whatever their country of origin.
• End collective punishment of families, especially against children.
• Put an end to forced labour practices.
• Ensure an independent judicial system and the individual’s right to a fair trial.
• Release all political prisoners, persons detained for reasons related to their opinions or peaceful political activities, and members of their family.
• Put an end to the practice of incarcerating all the members of the family of every opposition figure.
• Allow freedom of movement of its citizens within and across the border and end the punishment of those expelled or returned from abroad, including refugees and asylum-seekers.

Texts of draft UNGA resolutions on Iran, Syria, North Korea, Myanmar

Following are the full texts of the draft resolutions on human rights situations that are to be voted on later this month by the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee:
  1. A/C.3/68/L.42 – Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic
  2. A/C.3/68/L.55 – Situation of human rights in Myanmar
  3. A/C.3/68/L.56 – Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  4. A/C.3/68/L.57 – Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

North Korea Commission of Inquiry concludes statement with reference to UN Watch

Today the UN Human Rights Council heard the initial report from the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea. UN Watch intern Diane Rhim, delivered a statement in which she referred to her grandparents from that country and the importance of this Inquiry in speaking out for the North Korean victims. Her point was referred to by the Chairperson of the CoI in his concluding remarks.

Diane Rhim with Mr. Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the COI

UN Watch Statement to UNHRC 24th Session

Interactive dialogue with Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

17 September 2013

Delivered by Ms. Diane Rhim

Thank you, Mr. President.

I am Korean, and both of my grandfathers come from North Korea, so it means a lot to me to deliver this statement on behalf of UN Watch.

UN Watch was a strong advocate for the creation of this Commission of Inquiry, and we very much welcome its work. The recent hearings in Seoul provided a vital forum for victims to educate the world about their suffering.

In particular, we applaud Shin Dong-hyuk—who was here recently to receive UN Watch’s 2013 Moral Courage Award—for his powerful testimony.

Shin is the only known surviving escapee from a North Korean total control zone prison camp. In that terrible place, he was made to watch his mother and brother executed.

Shin isn’t just somebody who was sent to a concentration camp; he was born into a concentration camp.

At UN Watch’s Geneva human rights summit this year, Shin said the following:

As a child, the only thing I knew about my situation was what I was told by prison camp guards. They said to us: “You are all supposed to be killed, but the law has saved you instead. So you have to work hard. You must pay off all your sins that you and your family members committed until the day you die.” That’s all I knew about why I was there.

Continue reading ‘North Korea Commission of Inquiry concludes statement with reference to UN Watch’

North Korean Defector Wins Human Rights Award

GENEVA, May 20 – The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch announced today that Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known surviving escapee from a North Korean total control zone prison camp, will receive its 2013 Moral Courage Award, at a Geneva ceremony to be held in the original League of Nations Hall on June 5th.

The award will be presented at UN Watch’s 20th anniversary gala dinner, where Shin will address ambassadors, NGO activists and UN officials.

UN Watch will also arrange meetings for Shin with UN human rights officials in Geneva. The other dinnerhonouree and keynote speaker will be world chess champion and leading Russian dissident Garry Kasparov.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer highlighted the importance of bringing victims to meet UN officials. Continue reading ‘North Korean Defector Wins Human Rights Award’

UN rights council criticized for featuring allegedly corrupt official on today’s Nelson Mandela Day panel

Australian WIPO chief Francis Gurry is accused of vote-buying,
embargoed tech transfers to Iran and North Korea, and obstructing U.S. congressional inquiry

GENEVA, Sept. 21 – The participation of the UN’s top intellectual property official on today’s Human Rights Council panel for Nelson Mandela International Day is being criticized by UN Watch in light of revelations that his agency shipped embargoed technology to North Korea and Iran, and accusations of misconduct including vote-buying, as reported by Reuters.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental watchdog organization, called on the U.S., the EU and UN rights chief Navi Pillay to explain why Francis Gurry, the Australian head of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), is speaking this afternoon on a panel dedicated to human rights and Nelson Mandela’s values.

Panelists are to provide examples of “how the promotion and protection of human rights has been advanced by the values of reconciliation, peace, freedom and racial equality in their societies or personal experiences.”

Yet Neuer said the credibility of the council — which annually passes resolutions condemning abuses by Iran and North Korea — is now harmed by inviting the WIPO chief.

bipartisan letter from the U.S. Congress, signed by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Member Howard Berman, accuses Gurry of obstructing potentially damning testimony by WIPO staffers regarding the agency’s quiet transfer of U.N.-embargoed technology to North Korea and Iran, which could advance those regimes’ nuclear and missile programs.

Gurry is accused of breaching his pledge to cooperate with a Congressional inquiry into whether the agency’s actions had violated U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

Moreover, as reported by Reuters, Gurry is also accused of pledging the equipment to the two sanctioned countries in exchange for their votes, according to a U.N. lawsuit filed by a former WIPO manager.

The suit also alleges Gurry earmarked posts for member states who backed him in his 2008 election and those whose votes he is trying to secure as part of his 2014 re-election bid.

Two investigators who conducted an internal WIPO inquiry into the shipments said: “We simply cannot fathom how WIPO could have convinced itself that most Member States would support the delivery of equipment to countries whose behavior was so egregious it forced the international community to impose embargoes, and where the deliveries, if initiated by the recipient countries, would violate a Member State’s national Laws.”

U.N. Testimony: North Korean Defector Oh Kil Nam Pleads to See His Wife & Daughters Again

Coordinated by the human rights groups UN Watch and Freedom House, Dr. Oh Kil Nam testified before the U.N. Human Rights Council, seeking to rescue his family from arbitrary detention in North Korea. Following is his speech delivered on June 28, 2012 — and North Korea’s insulting reply.

I am truly honored to be here and to speak about my family, who have been detained in a North Korean political prison camp in Yoduk.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that my wife, Shin Sook Ja, and our two daughters Hae Won and Kyu Won have been arbitrarily detained in North Korea since my two daughters were only 11 and 9 years old. Continue reading ‘U.N. Testimony: North Korean Defector Oh Kil Nam Pleads to See His Wife & Daughters Again’

UN flag at half-mast for Kim Jong-il

GENEVA, Dec. 28 With UN flags at half-mast today at its Human Rights Council (photo) and other buildings to mark the funeral of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, a Geneva-based human rights group called on the UN to show equal sympathy for the victims of Kim’s ruthless regime.

“We understand that the UN follows diplomatic protocol, but the world body must not forget that its founding purpose is to defend basic human rights, and sadly that message is at serious risk of being blurred today,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a leading advocacy group at the UN for human rights in North Korea. See below UN Watch’s recent statements on North Korea.

“Today should be a time for the UN to show solidarity with the victims — the millions of North Koreans brutalized by Kim’s merciless policies of starvation, torture and oppression — and not with the perpetrator,” Neuer said.

“We call on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to make clear that today’s gesture in no way signals respect for a mass murderer of his own people, a man personally responsible for some of the worst atrocities of our time.”

Neuer also expressed concern that the North Korean regime “is likely to exploit the images of flags at half-mast to claim world sympathy for Kim Jong-il and his regime.

Click for more

Iran, Syria, N. Korea Condemned, But Not By All

Roll calls detailed below reveal which countries voted with Iran, Syria and North Korea as the UN General Assembly passed resolutions Dec. 19 denouncing the human rights records of those three regimes. As in past years, Afghanistan, where NATO-led forces continue to battle on behalf of the country, split with the alliance’s members for the vote on Iran, and voted with the Islamic republic.

1. Situation of Human Rights in Iran: 89 in favour, 30 against, 64 abstentions.

Against:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe. Continue reading ‘Iran, Syria, N. Korea Condemned, But Not By All’

North Korea opens disarmament plenary as Canada boycotts & 28 groups protest

GENEVA – North Korea today began chairing the summer plenary of the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament, eliciting a boycott by the Canadian government and a sharp protest by 28 non-governmental organizations. Menawhile, Burma, Iran, Nigeria and Norway offered varying degress of congratulations to the North Korean chair.  For more on today’s plenary, click here.

“Allowing an international outlaw to oversee international arms control efforts is just plain wrong,” advocacy group U.N. Watch’s director Hillel Neuer said today. “North Korea is a ruthless regime that menaces its neighbors and starves its own people, and should not be granted the propaganda coup of heading a world body dedicated to peace.” Continue reading ‘North Korea opens disarmament plenary as Canada boycotts & 28 groups protest’

Pyongyang Presidency Praised at Arms Control Forum

North Korea today chaired the first plenary of the August-September session of the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament (CD).  UN Watch reporters monitored covered the proceedings in Geneva.

The first speaker was Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Director General of the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) who also serves as Secretary General of the CD as well as the Personal Representative of the UN Secretary General to the CD. He said that the status quo “risks making the CD irrelevant and obsolete. He also said that “procedures such as the rotating presidency are impairing the efficiency of the conference,” although it’s doubtful he was specifically referring to North Korea.

None of the countries taking the floor followed UN Watch’s call to protest Pyongyang’s presdiency. On the contrary:

Burma (Myanmar): “Warmest congratulations on your assumption of the presidency of the CD at this critical juncture. I’m confident that your great diplomatic skills and vast experience will bring great progress to this body.”

Iran:  “Thank you for how you are presiding on the CD… We support every measure to strengthen the [CD’s] position… [there’s an] urgent need of disarmament machinery today: to avoid stockpiling of nuclear weapons…”

Norway:  [We express our] “support to your presidency and we assure our full cooperation”

Nigeria: “Thank you for your election and your leadership”

For the UN’s official summary of the proceedings, click here.

VIDEO: UN Watch protests N. Korean presidency of arms control body

Demonstration in front of the Conference on Disarmament at UN European Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland, August 2, 2011. UN Watch led the protest supported by 27 other human rights NGOs. Director Hillel Neuer spoke, followed by North Korean Kim Joo-il. Click here for full details.

28 rights groups protest North Korea heading arms control body

Protest today at UN Geneva headquarters, with UN Watch director Hillel Neuer and North Korean defector Kim Joo-il

GENEVA – A North Korean defector and 28 advocacy groups led by the Geneva-based UN Watch are urging nations to protest Pyongyang’s chairmanship of the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament, the world’s only multilateral forum for nuclear arms diplomacy. 

“Allowing an international outlaw to oversee international arms control efforts is just plain wrong,” advocacy group U.N. Watch’s director Hillel Neuer told reporters Tuesday in Geneva. “North Korea is a ruthless regime that menaces its neighbors and starves its own people, and should not be granted the propaganda coup of heading a world body dedicated to peace.”

Canada is boycotting the conference until North Korea’s presidency expires in September. Continue reading ’28 rights groups protest North Korea heading arms control body’

North Korean defector blasts Pyongyang arms control presidency

Transcript of statement today by North Korean defector Kim Joo-il, presented at press conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, organized by UN Watch in cooperation with the group North Korean Gulag.

I would like to first of all thank the head of UN Watch and you, everyone here, for preparing this press conference today.

While I would love to discuss a lot of problems in North Korea, I will only mention three things today.

I would like to mention three things vis-à-vis the imminent presidency of North Korea of the Conference on Disarmament. I would like to mention, first, the reactions of North Koreans who defected from North Korea who live outside. Second, I would mention the reaction of North Korean residents, at least as far as I know. And finally, I would like to mention how North Korea is treating its own citizens, its problems concerning famine, and human rights violations. Continue reading ‘North Korean defector blasts Pyongyang arms control presidency’

Canada and North Korea attack each other in UN debate

Canada and North Korea attacked each other in a UN debate yesterday, after Ottawa objected to Pyongyang’s presidency this month of the UN’s arms control forum.  North Korea falsely accused Canada of boycotting Durban I.  See details below.

Meanwhile, UN Watch, the organization that first reported on and protested North Korea’s presidency, will be organizing a series of protest events on Tuesday in Geneva next to the Conference on Disarmament, as North Korea begins its term. The UN Watch events will include:

  • Press conference at the UN together with North Korean defector Kim Joo-il, in cooperation with the group North Korean Gulag
  • Silent vigil in the public square facing the UN, featuring drawings of a North Korean concentration camp hand-made by survivors
  • Publication of a protest statement by an international coalition of 25 NGOs

Following are excerpts from yesterday’s UN summary of a GA meeting in New York. A video of the debate can be found here.  The Canadian intervention begins at the 1hr 52 min mark and ends at 1 hr 60.

. Continue reading ‘Canada and North Korea attack each other in UN debate’

Canada to boycott UN-backed disarmament conference

UN Watch to organize protest of North Korea’s presidency outside August session in Geneva

GENEVA — In advance of the expected announcement today by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird that Ottawa will boycott a UN-sponsored conference on disarmament, UN Watch issued the following statement:

“UN Watch salutes Canada for being the first country to denounce North Korea’s outrageous presidency of the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group which first reported the story.

“The UN has a great role to play in ending the scourge of war, but it cannot be credible on peace and security when it asks the foxes to guard the chickens,” said Neuer. Continue reading ‘Canada to boycott UN-backed disarmament conference’

UN Watch urges US & EU to follow Canada, protest N. Korea’s chairing UN disarmament

GENEVA — UN Watch thanked Canada today for being first in the world to answer its call on UN member states to protest North Korea’s presidency of a UN disarmament body. Click here for Canadian statement.

“We now call on the U.S., the EU, and all other UN member states to follow Canada’s lead and demand that this arch-enemy of peace and human rights surrender its presidency to a more credible country,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights monitoring group.

“It’s asking the fox to guard the chickens, and damages the U.N.’s credibility.” Continue reading ‘UN Watch urges US & EU to follow Canada, protest N. Korea’s chairing UN disarmament’

UN Watch salutes Canada for protesting N. Korea’s presidency of UN disarmament group

UN Watch salutes the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for being first in the world to answer our call and protest North Korea’s outrageous appointment as head of UN disarmament. We call on the US, the EU and all other nations to follow Canada’s lead. Below is the statement issued today by Canada.


Minister Baird Expresses Disappointment over North Korea’s Chairmanship of UN Conference on Disarmament

John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, today issued the following statement regarding North Korea’s appointment to the chair of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament:

“North Korea is simply not a credible chair of a disarmament body.

“The fact that it gets a turn chairing a United Nations committee focused on disarmament is unacceptable, given the North Korean regime’s efforts in the exact opposite direction.

“We call on North Korea to pass the chair on to a credible country that will advance the disarmament agenda within the UN. Canada will be immediately reviewing our participation in this committee’s activities.

“North Korea should also open its facilities to international inspections.

“In October 2010, Canada announced the adoption of a controlled engagement policy toward North Korea and the imposition of additional economic sanctions against the regime under the Special Economic Measures Act. These measures followed a commitment made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, which claimed the lives of 46 sailors.

“Canada will continue to take strong and principled positions in support of the fundamental Canadian values of democracy, human rights and justice.”

UN names North Korea chair of arms control agency

GENEVA — A Geneva-based human rights group today called on the US and the EU to strongly protest the U.N.’s appointment of North Korea as head of its Conference on Disarmament, a 65-member arms control forum. (For the official UN announcement, see “Democratic People’s Republic Of Korea Assumes Presidency Of The Conference On Disarmament.”)

“Bare months after the U.N. finally suspended Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi from its Human Rights Council, North Korea wins the propaganda coup of heading the world’s disarmament agency,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “It’s asking the fox to guard the chickens, and damages the U.N.’s credibility.” Continue reading ‘UN names North Korea chair of arms control agency’

North Korea defiant amid harsh UN criticism

On December 7, North Korea underwent the Universal Period Review (UPR), a process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years.  North Korea has become a country of special interest for the UPR process because of several reports submitted to the UN concerning the country’s grave human rights violations, including torture, forced labor camps, public execution, and violence against children and women. 

During the three hour review process, North Korea denied the existence of all human rights violations, despite Western state concerns of North Korea’s current human rights situation.  North Korea claimed the concerns were the result of bias and “unfair resolutions” regarding their country, which are discussed every year at the Human Rights Council. Several delegations spoke in support of the North Korean government. Continue reading ‘North Korea defiant amid harsh UN criticism’

GA condemns Burma, DPRK, Iran

On Thursday, November 19, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted a resolution that “strongly condemns the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar,” with 92 countries voting in favor, 26 voting against, and 65 abstaining.  Sweden, representing the European Union, as the main sponsor of this resolution, explained “there are still over 2,000 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains in house arrest.  Fundamental freedoms in Myanmar, including the freedom of assembly and expression, remain severely restricted.”

The Third Committee also approved a resolution expressing “very serious concern at the persistence of continuing reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”  97 nations voted in favor of the resolution, 19 voted against, and 65 abstained.  Sweden, for the European Union, was also this resolution’s main sponsor.  In its statement, it criticized the government of the DPRK for “the grave, widespread, and systematic violations of human rights” and noted that “the DPRK has made no substantial effort to meet earlier requests made by the international community.”

On Friday, November 20, a draft resolution on the human rights situation in Iran was approved by a vote of 74 in favor to 48 against, with 59 abstentions.  Before voting on the resolution, Canada, as the main sponsor, explained:

“What is routine is Iran’s consistent failure to live up to its international human rights obligations.  These failings were only made all the more evident following the June 12th presidential election when the use of force by Iranian security forces resulted in the death, injury and arrest of many individuals, when many of those who were detained were subject to torture and denied access to legal representation, when freedom of association, assembly and expression were drastically curtailed.”

Iran, however, argued that the draft text represented an example of an “unhealthy and dangerous trend” of politicization and abuse of human rights mechanisms.  After the vote, Iran considered the abstentions and absences to represent, alongside the “no” votes, support for Iran. 

Additionally, on November 19, the representative of Zambia, on behalf of the African Group, introduced a draft decision on the Report of the Human Rights Council.  The Committee will likely be taking action on this resolution within the next few days.

Rights Violating States Attempt Response to Accusations

Today at the U.N. Human Rights Council, after a number of states and NGOs accused Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, China, and North Korea of violating human rights, these countries demanded their rights of reply to respond to allegations or deflect blame by pointing to purported abuses of their critics. Continue reading ‘Rights Violating States Attempt Response to Accusations’

U.N. Human Rights Council concludes main annual session; Summary of key resolutions

The U.N. Human Rights Council concluded its main annual session on Friday, March 28. Before the start of the session, Freedom House published an updated report on Freedom in the World, which listed eight countries and two territories that suffer from the “worst of the worst” human rights violations: North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Libya, Sudan, Burma (Myanmar), Equatorial Guinea, Somalia, Tibet, and Chechnya. The human rights records of another eleven countries and territories ranked just slightly above. Amongst the more than two dozen resolutions adopted by the council this session, only those on Myanmar and North Korea condemned “worst of the worst” violators. The situation in Somalia was addressed, but in a weak manner with government actions enjoying more praise than criticism. There was also a weak resolution on the Congo, a country in the midst of a large-scale humanitarian crisis. By contrast, Israel —ranked as “free”— was strongly condemned in five one-sided resolutions.

Continue reading ‘U.N. Human Rights Council concludes main annual session; Summary of key resolutions’

Russia says Burma situation is “far from being dramatic”

The UN Human Rights Council today debated Burma and North Korea, hearing reports from P. Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Myanmar and V. Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Myanmar’s “lack of cooperation”

The Special Rapporteur on Myanamar highlighted the deterioration of the human rights situation there and deplored an increased militarization. He further regretted “the lack of cooperation from the Burmese government,” which has denied him entry.

Pinheiro said freedom of association and expression was severely curtailed in Myanamar, with ongoing arrests of monks and others. The UN expert called on the Council to hold Myanmar accountable for its actions.

Myanmar, however, said it has made “significant progress towards political liberalization.” Its representative criticized the Special Rapporteur’s report for “lack[ing] objectivity and impartiality.”  He said “there are no political prisoners in Myanmar… we are trying to transform Myanmar into a democratic country.”

China and Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic bloc welcomed “positive steps” taken by Myanmar, such as cooperation with the UN and the holding of a referendum in May.

The US, Canada and the EU, however, expressed deep concerns about the legitimacy of the upcoming referendum. The US recalled that “the referendum excludes opposition forces and/or minority groups.”   Western countries also deeply regretted Myanmar’s refusal to accept a follow-up visit by the UN expert.

Russia condemned the critical tone of the Special Rapporteur’s report that “[did] not focus on the positive steps.”  According to Russia, the situation in Myanmar is “far from being dramatic.” The Russian representative recommended the Council’s members and observers to be “polite” by using Burma’s official name, “Myanmar.”

Special rapporteur Pinheiro concluded by expressing strong doubts about the democratic nature of the upcoming referendum, to take place only months after massive government repression.

“Visible, substantial and exponential violations of human rights” in North Korea

The Special Rapporteur on North Korea concluded that overall demilitarization was unsuccessful and that civil and political rights were severely curtailed. The UN expert urged the international community to address impunity in the country.

“Human rights violations are visible, substantial and exponential,” said Muntarbhorn. There were massive violations of civil and political rights, collective punishment, torture and guilt by association including on women, public executions, non-respect of the rights of the child and the elderly, and considerable violence.

North Korea’s representative then took the floor to call for immediate termination of the expert’s mandate. “The report of the Special Rapporteur represents Western forces seeking to overthrow the social system,” he said.  “The report has no relevance with human rights.”

Cuba said the mandate was “part of the Axis of Evil reference of the Bush administration” and urged the council to end it. 

Syria called for ending all country mandates, including the one for North Korea. “This naming and shaming does not help to promote human rights.” (This has not prevented Syria from introducing or supporting several name-and-shame resolutions against Israel during this session.)

The U.S. said North Korea and Myanmar remain among the “world’s worst” regimes, and urged the Council to renew the mandate to improve the lives of North Koreans.

Similarly, Japan, which is co-sponsoring the resolution on the situation in North Korea together with the EU, asked Pyongyang to address the underlying causes for the exodus of its people. The Council will vote on whether to renew the at the end of the month.

To read the official UN meeting summary, click here.

To watch the live webcast of the Council, click here.

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