- (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
A major global campaign was launched in Tokyo today by human rights groups across the world to push for the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in North Korea.
Major human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Federation for Human Rights have all united to advocate for investigations that would highlight and detail North Korea’s human rights record.
Two Christian groups, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the Inter-American Federation of Christian Lawyers, have also joined the ranks of the over 40 organizations coming from North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America to advocate for the world to recognize and place a priority on the human rights atrocities that characterize the Kim Jong-il leadership and governance of North Korea today.
The new initiative follows a two-day conference that took place in Tokyo to discuss crimes against humanity in the country. Human rights activists and diplomats that attended the conference also heard survivor stories from individuals that lived through torture and abuse at North Korea’s prison camps.
Phil Robertson of the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch said in a statement of the new campaign, “The time has come for the U.N. to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity that characterize North Korea today. We demand the world pull back the curtain on the egregious human rights violations that make the North Korean Government one of the most brutal regimes on earth.”
Issues of human rights in North Korea have traditionally remained a secondary concern of the international community, as it prefers to focus on the hard power concerns of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
North Korea serves as one of the most secretive countries on earth and is commonly described as intelligence “blackhole.” No outside sources of information are allowed into the country and newspaper and television are controlled by the state. People in the country have no access to internet and cell phones are banned.
The human rights record of the country is extremely difficult to assess due to the fact that foreigners cannot easily enter the country, and once they do, they are strictly monitored in their actions.
Furthermore, North Korean nationals cannot freely leave the country and freedom of speech is prohibited. Therefore, the human rights record of society is mainly established through stories coming from refugees and defectors of the regime.
Thus, this new push could potentially serve as an open door to establishing a clearer picture of the human rights record in North Korea and can also catapult human rights in the country into a position of prominence in international affairs.