North Korea/Human Rights (12/22/2014)
Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 22 December 2014
I would like to thank Mr. Tayé-Brook Zerihoun and Mr. Šimonović for their briefings. What they have described for us today backs up the information contained in the report of the commission of inquiry (S/2014/276, annex), chaired by Mr. Kirby.
The work the commission of inquiry has done is not only remarkable for its quality, it is also salutary. For the first time, it has given us an overview of the violations committed by the North Korean authorities over 50 years, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State, as the commission’s report puts it. It has thrown light on a terrible machine, the Pyongyang regime’s machine for enslaving its people. There is no time today to detail the full litany of the crimes: murder, arbitrary arrest and detention, widespread torture, rape, abduction, forced disappearance, slavery, obstruction of humanitarian access, the exploitation of famine. The list is long, unfortunately. Hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have died in camps over the past 50 years, while between 80,000 and 120,000 are still being detained.
The violations affect men and women. They do not spare children. The regime’s murderous madness seems limitless. The Security Council has finally met to hear the cry of distress of the victims of a bloody regime. What is more, those crimes are committed in the darkness of censorship. North Korea is closed to international media and to the organizations that defend human rights and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The commission of inquiry could not gain access.
We cannot remain silent in the face of this waking nightmare. Those responsible for the terror, the North Korean authorities first and foremost, must be brought to justice to answer for their actions. The crimes they have committed will not go unpunished. This is an ethical imperative for the international community. As Mr. Šimonović emphasized, there can be little doubt that the seriousness, scale and systematic nature of these crimes render them crimes against humanity. The commission of inquiry’s recommendation that the situation be referred to the International Criminal Court should therefore receive the maximum attention possible from the Council. The Court is a guarantee of fair and effective justice. What is at stake is the fight against impunity today and tomorrow, justice for the victims and future reconciliation. The High Commissioner for Human Rights also has a role to play. His field office, which is currently being set up in Seoul, should enable us to monitor the report’s recommendations and the situation as it develops. It should also continue to collect information on the violations committed, and we would like the Council to receive regular updates.
The regime’s violations are a threat to peace and international security. They are part — indeed, an essential component — of a totalitarian political system that threatens and destabilizes the entire region. In the words of the commission of inquiry, “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world” (S/2014/276, annex, para. 80). It is a State that has no parallel in the degree of its terror, a pariah State under the international nuclear and missile non-proliferation regime, a State that, in violation of Council resolutions, exports sensitive goods and technologies that then serve to finance its leaders’ indecent life style and the repression of a population that is regularly hit by famine.
The Security Council could no longer ignore crimes such as these that shock humankind’s conscience. It was its responsibility to take up the issue. By holding this meeting today, the Council has sent a clear message to the torturers in Pyongyang. The wall of silence that has too long imprisoned a people and a country cut off from the world has been removed. The reality of North Korea is now visible to all. The Security Council is on the case. Nothing, not even the nuclear blackmail the North Korean regime used to try to dissuade us from convening this meeting, will make us look away. The Pyongyang regime is confronted with its responsibilities before history and the judgement of the international community. The violations must now end, the political prisoners be freed and the country opened to the media, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations.
Let us hope that instead of hurling itself into another of the cycles of provocations and repression to which it is, alas, accustomed, the North Korean regime will hear our urgent call and at last choose the path of openness, reconciliation and peace.