U.N. push for North Korean accountability continues with release of Special Rapporteur’s Report

John Pavelka

John Pavelka

On October 28, 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Marzuki Darusman, released a damning report on the human rights situation in that country and joined the chorus of voices seeking to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Rapporteur’s report, which is released annually, follows six months after the release of a much more comprehensive report on the findings of a three-member commission, which included Darusman, set up by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council and tasked with investigating human rights violations in the DPRK.

The commission’s extensive report, released in March, detailed numerous instances of human rights violations and crimes against humanity, some as described by survivors and witnesses in public hearings and in more than 240 confidential interviews. The report states that these crimes “entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” Among the report’s recommendations is a referral of top DPRK government officials to the ICC to stand trial.

After the commission report’s release, the DPRK began demonstrating an unusual level of public diplomacy engagement, which included sending its U.N. delegation to attend a panel on the findings of the report. The DPRK government denies the allegations in the report, but has surprisingly acknowledged the existence of reform-through-labor detention camps, albeit painting them in a more favorable view. It has even invited Special Rapporteur Darusman to visit North Korea himself. The DPKR has also been reaching out to “allies” China and Cuba in order to marshal international support and assistance in its diplomatic push. China holds veto power in the Security Council, which could block any future referral of the matter by that body to the ICC.

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