UN Security Council Briefing: The Situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security
Statement as delivered by Carolyn Schwalger, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 9 December 2016

New Zealand shares the concerns outlined by Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson and Assistant Secretary-General Gilmour, and those expressed by other Council members, about the severity and the systematic nature of human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Sadly, we have seen no discernible improvement since the Council last discussed this agenda item. Some of the most serious human rights violations of our time, including murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion, other sexual violence and starvation continues to be reported. It is no surprise that the DPRK regime works so hard to restrict an independent assessment of the situation.

The DPRK leadership maintains tight control over its population - control grounded in terror instilled by egregious and widespread human rights violations. This is a regime that executes citizens, without due process, for acts as minor as watching or distributing foreign media.

Torture and ill-treatment at detention facilities, including the extensive prison camp system, is routine as we have heard this morning. Harsh restrictions remain on freedom of movement by ordinary North Koreans.

The continuation of these gross violations of human rights demonstrates that the DPRK authorities do not feel bound by the rules of the international system. Pyongyang’s Weapons of Mass Destruction programme exemplifies this attitude. We must not stand by and let this rejection of internationally-accepted norms, under the guise of being a so-called internal matter, go uncontested.

To do so would fail the people of North Korea. 

To do so would fail the DPRK’s neighbours. Neighbours who are faced with a heightened security threat resulting from Pyongyang’s reckless development of Weapons of Mass Destruction. A programme advanced on the back of the suffering of its people.

And to do so would be to fail ourselves given the regime’s continued defiance of this Council’s resolutions.

As this Council resolution 2321, there is an urgent need for the DPRK to respect and ensure the inherent dignity of people within its territory.

As noted by others this morning, DPRK nationals are sent abroad by their authorities to work under conditions that reportedly amount to forced labour. This is one of the ways in which the DPRK is able to subvert UN sanctions and fund its Weapons of Mass Destruction programme.

New Zealand finds the diversion of domestic funds towards Weapons of Mass Destruction, and away from desperately needed humanitarian support simply deplorable.

Mr President, despite the time that has passed since the release of the Commission of Inquiry’s report, the urgency of its recommendations has not diminished. We must ensure that our picture of the situation in the DPRK remains up to date. In this regard, we welcome the important work being undertaken by the OHCHR office in Seoul. 

We also welcome the appointment of a new Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation, Thomas Quintana, who recently completed his first visit to the region. The Special Rapporteur has emphasised the importance of efforts to both engage the DPRK and to pursue accountability. These are not mutually exclusive goals.

Engagement is important to ensure we improve the human rights situation in the DPRK. And in this regard, there have been some small positive developments, such as improvement in the rights of persons with disabilities.

We should also be prepared to support practical options for pursuing accountability against those within the DPRK system who bear primary responsibility for the worst crimes that have been committed. 

New Zealand reiterates its call for the DPRK to take immediate steps to bring an end to all human rights violations, and to meaningfully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and other international human rights mechanisms. We urge the DPRK to review its policies and to remove constraints on the UN and other international organisations and to ensure that meaningful assistance is provided that can make a practical difference to the lives of its citizens.

New Zealand also encourages the international community, particularly those States with an established relationship with the DPRK, to engage Pyongyang authorities on human rights issues where possible, and to encourage its cooperation and participation in human rights dialogue. We must make our concerns known and be clear that we expect tangible improvement.

And finally, we call on this Council to remain seized of the human rights situation in the DPRK given its clear link to Pyongyang’s Weapons of Mass Destruction programme and the continued absence of meaningful engagement or any discernible progress by the authorities in addressing this Council’s concerns.

Thank you Mr President.


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