Watchdogs Welcome U.N.'s Condemnation of N. Korea Rights Abuses

Christian groups have welcomed the recent approval of a resolution criticizing North Korea's public executions, use of torture, and other grave human rights violations that have long highlighted by rights groups and persecution watchdogs.

The draft resolution, which expressed more robust criticism than last year’s text, not only attracted more votes than the 2005 resolution, but also more sponsors, with the number rising from 45 to 52, noted U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). The resolution was approved by the General Assembly's human rights committee by a vote of 91-21 with 60 abstentions.

“CSW very much welcomes the broad international censure of North Korea’s human rights abuses,” said Elizabeth Batha, international advocate for the human rights organization, in a released statement. “While the eyes of the world have been focused of late on the threat North Korea’s leaders pose to the international community, it is critical that we address the very real and present suffering of those living under their daily control. North Korea must be left in no doubt about the resolve of the international community to see an end to its atrocities against its own people.”

According to the Associated Press, the draft resolution expresses "very serious concern" at the "continuing reports of systemic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," known as the DPRK, and the government's refusal to cooperate with the U.N. human rights commissioner or special investigator.

It criticizes North Korea's "all pervasive and severe restrictions" on freedom of expression, religion, assembly and movement, its imposition of the death penalty for political reasons, the detention of thousands in prison camps, the punishment and torture of border-crossers, and the maltreatment of people with disabilities.

The draft resolution also expresses "very deep concern at the precarious humanitarian situation in the country, compounded by the mismanagement on the part of the authorities." Despite recent progress, infant malnutrition "continues to affect the physical and mental development of a significant proportion of children," it said.

“Human rights agencies are anxious to see the United Nations respond at appropriate levels to the gravity of the human rights situation in the country,” CSW commented in a released statement.

Unlike last year's resolution, this draft asks the secretary-general to submit "a comprehensive report" on the human rights situation in North Korea for the General Assembly's consideration next year.

Another difference between this year’s resolution and the previous year’s was the addition of South Korea, which voted in favor of the resolution, marking a dramatic departure from past practice. South Korea was absent for the first resolution on human rights in North Korea at the Commission on Human Rights in 2003 and subsequently abstained at the next two resolutions before the Commission in 2004 and 2005 and the first resolution before the General Assembly in 2005.

In explaining Friday’s vote, South Korea said it voted for the resolution because there was an even greater need to focus on the human rights situation in the DPRK following its nuclear test.

“With prison camp survivors testifying to extreme levels of brutality and dehumanisation in the country’s gulag system, estimated to contain around 200,000 prisoners, calls for effective action are pressing,” CSW noted. ”Among the many additional human rights abuses addressed in the resolution are the use of torture, execution, arbitrary detention, violence against women, including forced abortions, infanticide, severe repression of freedoms of religion, expression, assembly and association and harsh punishments for leaving the country. The issue of North Korea’s abduction of foreign nationals continues to attract specific international concern. “

The appointment of former South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon as U.N. Secretary General-designate has been met with calls for him to robustly address the particularly grave human rights concerns in North Korea.

Christian Post correspondent Daniel Blake in London contributed to this report.