In the present report, the Special Rapporteur discusses accountability for crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, aiming to bring to the attention of the Human Rights Council and the international community the urgent need to take decisive actions to bring justice and accountability for such crimes. The report also presents an overview of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the human rights of the people in the country. The Special Rapporteur stresses that a peaceful and principled end of the Korean War will generate the space and the conditions to further discuss denuclearization, human rights improvements, and access to the ground.
This report seeks to highlight the importance of ensuring accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It incorporates the views submitted to the Special Rapporteur by civil society organizations and by the former members of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In this report, the Special Rapporteur aims to bring to the attention of the Human Rights Council, along with the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to the Human Rights Council on promoting accountability in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,1 that the United Nations and the international community have to take decisive actions to bring justice and accountability for serious human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As a former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar2 , the Special Rapporteur has witnessed the consequences when the most serious human rights abuses are forgotten and not properly addressed, despite noble intentions. The Special Rapporteur recognizes the difficulty in finding solutions to entrenched human rights problems in complex circumstances. However, human rights is axiological - not only victims but also perpetrators are entitled to human rights, and “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has compromised the exercise of all human rights and has reminded us of our fragile nature. In this report, the Special Rapporteur assesses the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. To date, no cases have been confirmed according to the authorities, which is in part due to the Government’s proactive efforts on prevention. However, drastic containment measures have resulted in a number of concerning consequences that further isolate the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from the outside world. The country has been isolating itself from social, political, economic and diplomatic engagements, including with the United Nations. The authorities have reinforced the doctrine of the juche idea, a political aim that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea seeks based on the principle of sovereignty, but adjustments and corrections are required when these measures impact on sensitive aspects of the universal human rights system upheld in the Charter of the United Nations, including the need to cooperate and engage on human rights issues.
The Special Rapporteur regrets that the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to oppose his mandate and does not respond to his requests to visit the country. Owing to travel restrictions, he has not been able to undertake any official missions to the Republic of Korea or neighboring countries since his visit to Japan from 2 to 4 December 2019 and to Thailand from 28 to 29 November 2019. The Special Rapporteur instead held a series of online meetings with victims of human rights violations, their family members, civil society organizations, United Nations agencies, governments and media. Whereas accountability satisfies the right to justice and helps to deter further abuses, cooperation and engagement create the conditions for a substantive and meaningful improvement in human rights. This provides fertile ground to cultivate peace in the Korean Peninsula that not only the people of both Koreas, but also neighboring countries and the whole world, deserve and demand. For these reasons, the Special Rapporteur continues to uphold a two-track approach of engagement and accountability in his mandate.