Note by the Secretary-General
The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the General Assembly the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Tomás Ojea Quintana, submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 71/202.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
In the present report, the mandate holder takes stock of the monitoring and advocacy activities that he conducted in his first year as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Special Rapporteur outlines political and security developments with direct implications for the country’s human rights situation, as well as efforts by the authorities to engage with United Nations human rights mechanisms. In addition, the Special Rapporteur reviews recent trends that were brought to his attention, including through interviews with people who have recently left the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other sources from civil society and the United Nations system. On the basis of that information, the Special Rapporteur outlines proposals to promote changes on the ground and reiterates the need for the Government to take immediate action to redress grave human rights violations.
1. The present report outlines and analyses developments regarding the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the previous report of the Special Rapporteur, submitted to the General Assembly, at its seventy-first session, in October 2016 (A/71/402).
2. The human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been subject to close international scrutiny for several years. Although restrictions on access for independent human rights monitors have made it challenging to collect up-to-date information, patterns of serious violations continue to be documented by various external sources. Calls have been made to ensure accountability for crimes against humanity, including through referral to the International Criminal Court. In response, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has maintained a generally defensive stance, accusing some countries of sponsoring a politically-driven campaign against its leadership. Nonetheless, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has made more efforts to engage with United Nations human rights mechanisms than in the past.
3. The Special Rapporteur assumed his functions a little over a year ago, in a context that required identifying ways to achieve a balance between pursuing accountability for the violations that had been uncovered and promoting engagement with the country to redress the situation. Recent developments have shown that the two goals reinforce, rather than undermine, one another. The more the international community has insisted on the necessity of seeking justice and upholding universal human rights principles, the more the authorities have seemingly opened to a conversation with human rights mechanisms on ways to fulfil their obligations, at least in certain areas. The trend highlights the opportunity for the international community to improve the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea through multiple channels. In particular, it shows that the process of reporting to human rights mechanisms can trigger substantive interactions with the authorities, with a focus on making progressive changes to laws, policies and decision-making processes.
4. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur outlines the activities he conducted in the past year with that objective in mind. Although the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to reject the country mandate, the mandate holder has been able to work with various actors to collect, document and evaluate information on the situation in the country. The Special Rapporteur has been committed to meeting the highest standards of independence, impartiality and accuracy in assessing the data. Some of the input for the present report has been provided through interviews with people who left the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in late 2016 and in 2017. Although the Government has accused its nationals abroad of giving false testimonies, the information received has been cross-checked with other independent sources, making it difficult to invalidate. The Special Rapporteur would have preferred to receive and analyse those testimonies in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including the views of the authorities. However, the Government rejected his requests to carry out a country visit.