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Date : June 10, 2014
Justice Kirby, Human Rights Violations in NK: COI and Beyond
Michael Kirby, the former chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, delivered a special address on “Human Rights Violations in North Korea: COI and Beyond” at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on May 31st. The Network for North Korean Human Rights and Democracy (NKnet), Human Liberty Center and Save NK co-hosted this event, which attracted people from North Korean human rights NGOs, citizens and students.
Mr. Kirby began the lecture by explaining the procedures for establishing the Commission of Inquiry, formed during UN’s 22nd session without proceeding to vote. He highlighted that as he wrote the COI report, the Commission was dedicated to producing it in due process, fairness, and conveyance of the truth. Since the COI report was released on time, in budget, and at a luminous and readable level, Mr. Kirby urged every South Korean to read the COI report. Furthermore, he took time to emphasize the importance of delivering the COI report to North Korea.
He also noted that the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution urging the UN Security Council to take action against those responsible for Crimes against Humanity in North Korea by a vote of 30-6. He mentioned that many former Communist countries, which are not even members of the UN HRC, expressed their appreciation to the COI, praising its report when it was formally presented to the UN HRC.
After the adoption of the resolution, the COI report was delivered to the member states of the Security Council at the Arria-Formula, an informal meeting of the Security Council convened by France, Australia and the United States. Nine of fifteen members urged the Security Council to refer the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The COI report will go to the General Assembly this September at which point Kirby is hoping to formally send it on to the Security Council.
Because of the strength of international community who firmly believes that these ongoing grave crimes against its own people are intolerable, North Korea is beginning to change its attitude on the international community. Mr. Kirby pointed out four points as a signal of this change in process. First is an acceptance of some of the points of recommendation raised at the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In previous years, North Korea had rejected every last point suggested by other member states. The second point is that the country has agreed to allow monitoring on food aid from outside. Third, it has reached an agreement with Japan to reopen the case of abductees from Japan. Lastly, North Korea has agreed to send a team to the Asian Games, which will be held in Incheon. Although, people-to-people contact is a rarity, he noted that it is among the very important factors of recommendations of the COI.
He finished up the speech as he pointed out that it is now up to every South Korean and member states of the UN to address the grave and systematic human rights violations in North Korea.
Furthermore, he directly addressed a group of South Korean students, “The country, in which the grave human rights violations have been happening, is North Korea and it is your country. It happened to your people who have the same ethnic roots. So, it is your duty to address the atrocities in North Korea.” Towards the end, Mr. Kirby emphatically reminded them, “Never give up! Never give up! Never give up! Until we address the human rights violation in North Korea.”


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