Pyongyang must put an end to human rights violations
North Korea - Statement by Mr François Delattre - Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 9 December 2016
I wish to begin by thanking Deputy Secretary-General Mr. Jan Eliasson and Assistant Secretary-General Mr. Andrew Gilmour for their briefings. Let me also take this opportunity to express to Mr. Jan Eliasson the deep gratitude of France for his exemplary work on all fronts, beginning with human rights, which serves as a source of inspiration and admiration.
First and foremost, I wish to welcome the decision taken once again by the Security Council to allow those briefings to be delivered under a stand-alone item on the agenda. The situation, which remains one of the most serious in the world, warrants the full attention and mobilization of the Security Council. It is the Council’s responsibility, inasmuch as some of those crimes may constitute crimes against humanity. Given the gravity and systematic nature of those violations, they are the expression of an absolute totalitarianism that flies in the face of the rule of law.
The report of the international commission of inquiry of February 2014 shed light on “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations [that] reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world” (A/HRC/25/63, para. 80).
The North Korean regime has chosen to give priority to repression and to developing its nuclear and ballistic capacities to the detriment of the economic development and welfare of its people. In that sense, it poses a threat to the region and, further afield, a threat to international peace and security. That is yet another reason for the Security Council to be seized of the situation.
The briefings that we have just heard demonstrates that the situation has remained unchanged since the commission of inquiry’s report was published, with mass executions, tens of thousands of political prisoners, the systematic use of torture, slavery, famine, abductions, the displacement of populations, trafficking in human beings and women in particular, and finally the restriction of access to essential services, due to the fact that the resources of the State have been diverted for military purposes. That is, of course, not an exhaustive list. Let me focus on three points.
First, there is a right to freedom of opinion and expression, the exercise of which enables us to determine whether other rights are being respected. In North Korea, crimes are committed under the guise of censorship and the prohibition of any form of critical expression. The witnesses of that tragedy are reduced to silence. There is a lack of human rights advocates, a lack of free press and a lack of international media. The High Commissioner for Human Rights no longer has access to the territory. The entire population is subject to controlled education and alienated, or even imprisoned and killed, in its own land.
Accordingly, we must welcome the holding of this meeting of the Security Council ; the existence of an office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul, designed to follow the situation in North Korea ; the annual General Assembly resolution ; and the organization of events at the United Nations. All of that can help to maintain the vigilance of the international community, despite the authorities’ attempt to stifle it.
Secondly, I would like to discuss the fate of the victims of enforced disappearances and the families that have awaited news of their loved ones for years. The tragedy of enforced disappearance, which France is keen to combat, is out of all proportion in North Korea. It also extends to other countries, especially Japan, whose authorities are still waiting for the enquiries promised by the North Korean authorities to be conducted. We encourage all States whose nationals have been abducted by the regime to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which was adopted 10 years ago. The Convention, the Working Group and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances provide States with the technical assistance necessary to combat this scourge.
France also supports the strong plea made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights the day before yesterday, 7 December, in response to the suffering of these families, some of which have been separated for more than 60 years, since the Korean War.
Thirdly, I wish also to draw attention to the situation of North Korean workers abroad, who are the modern slaves of a regime that diverts the majority of their income to fund its nuclear and ballistic programmes, in violation of the international commitments undertaken by North Korea, in particular with respect to Security Council resolutions. These workers, who are scattered across a number of countries, live in conditions that clearly violate international human rights standards. We must work together to put an end to the use of these men and women in service of a cause that seriously endangers international and regional security and undermines their most fundamental rights and freedoms.
The Pyongyang regime must shoulder its responsibilities, which are clear : put an end to violations, release political prisoners, and provide justice and reparations. Here I wish to reaffirm the importance of the fight against impunity and to welcome the work of the group of independent experts on impunity, whose recommendations we will read attentively. All options must be collectively explored, including the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court and sanctions imposed for reasons related to human rights.
Following his visit to Seoul in late November, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea made a plea for “a people-focused approach in dealing with the situation in North Korea”.
Let me conclude by drawing the Council’s attention to those who, risking their lives, crossed borders to bear witness to the daily oppression that is crushing the people of North Korea. The Council must spare no effort to find the ways and means necessary to ensure that concrete change finally occurs, for the sake of the security and well-being of these people, these men, women and children who daily are subject to violations and live in fear.