Skip directly to content

U.N. Backs a Commission of Inquiry to Investigate North Korean Crimes Against Humanity


Update 3/25 : Amnesty International reports the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) passed the resolution to establish the Commission of Inquiry into "into grave, systematic and widespread human rights violations" in North Korea on March 21st.  


Rajiv Narayan, North Korea Researcher for Amnesty International, said about the resolution:

“The wide mandate provided to the Commission of Inquiry is very encouraging. It means the Commission can investigate the gross and systematic nature of these human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, and ensure those responsible are held to account.  We urge the North Korean government to co-operate fully with the Commission and grant its members unrestricted access to the country. The UN Secretary General must also ensure the Commission has the necessary resources to enable it to effectively carry out its mandate.”


DailyNK reports that a spokesperson for North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland responded to the resolution with the following statement:

“The U.S. and their South Chosun puppets should be well aware that this quarrel over human rights in our Republic [North Korea] is a challenge to our system and dignity that can never be accepted by our military and people.”


(earlier post)

The UN Human Rights Council appears ready to back a call by Japan and the European Union to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the human rights situation in North Korea later this month, following the release of a report with “extremely serious and disturbing” accounts of human rights violations on Monday, March 10th by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK Marzuki Darusman.


Mr. Durusman's latest report identified nine patterns of human rights violation in the country, including:  violation of the right to food; torture; arbitrary detention; violations of human rights associated with prison camps; discrimination; extensive violation of freedom of expression; violation of the right to life; restrictions on freedom of movement; and enforced disappearances.  Many, if not all, of the nine patterns of violation "may amount to crimes against humanity, committed as part of systematic and/or widespread attacks against civilian population,” Mr. Darusman said in a statement to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday.


This latest report on Human Rights in the DPRK is the most comprehensive since Mr. Darusman was tasked with the investigation in 2004, and while he believes the information to be credible, he stressed the need to set up a more detailed mechanism of inquiry to overcome difficulties in acquiring information due to the insular and secretive nature of the North Korean government.


Mr. Darusman's recommendation for a Commission of Inquiry will be included as part of a resolution that the UN Human Rights Council is "expected to adopt" when it votes in late March.    Backing the proposal is UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and many human rights organizations.   The upcoming resolution will be the tenth adopted by the Council on  human rights in North Korea in nearly a decade and, according to Ambassador Robert King, the US Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, "There hasn’t been a lot of progress over that period of time and our feeling is that we’ve reached a point where it’s time to ratchet up."  


King said a Commission of Inquiry will give the Council an opportunity to provide "greater focus, greater attention, to give more legal standing" to the UN's efforts do something to counter human rights abuses in DPRK.  U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe added that the Human Rights Council's creation of a Commission of Inquiry will "signal a growing frustration and a recognition in the international community that this is in fact the most severe, chronic human rights situation on the planet today."



Meanwhile, North Korean officials insisted that Darusman's report was "faked material ... invented by the hostile forces, defectors and other rabbles".


Here is an excerpt of Marzuki Darusman's statement to the UN Human Rights Council on 12 March 2012, where he says there has been a rise in people fleeing the country due to economic and political repression.



In 2011, Amnesty International created the startling report Hell Holes: North Korea's Secret Prison Camps.


A hearbreaking account of escape from North Korea at TED by Hyeonseo Lee: