At a well-attended high-level discussion on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the human rights violations perpetrated by the government of North Korea against the North Korean people:
“What goes on inside North Korea – systematic repression, collective punishment, arbitrary execution, penal colonies, prison camps – these abuses are actually unfathomable to nearly the entire world, and they should have no place in the 21st century.”
Secretary Kerry said that North Korea’s leadership pretends to be impervious to the concerns of the international community, but “on some level North Korea’s leaders do understand that their behavior brings shame upon their country in the eyes of the world. Why else,” Secretary Kerry asked, “would Pyongyang go to such extraordinary lengths to keep their prison camps secret? Why else would they refuse to allow access to the Red Cross, the U.N., and the international NGOs or dismiss out of hand horrific accounts provided by defectors as mere propaganda?”
Secretary Kerry said the veil over North Korea’s abuses has been lifted, citing in particular the U.N. Commission of Inquiry’s report on North Korea released earlier this year. In 400 pages of detail and testimony from over 80 witnesses, the report laid bare systematic violations of human rights by a state that in scale, gravity and nature have has no parallel in the contemporary world.
Secretary Kerry challenged those living in free societies to stand with the men and women of North Korea who are suffering in anonymity. And to the tens of thousands who suffer in prisons across North Korea, he said, “You may be hidden, but we can see you. We know you’re there. Your captors can silence your voice and assault your dignity, but they cannot deny your basic humanity.”
Secretary of State Kerry had a message for the regime as well: “You should close those camps, you should shut this evil system down.”