On December 22nd, the United Nations Security Council, for the first time ever, discussed the situation in North Korea as a stand-alone item. Previously, North Korea had been raised only within the context of nuclear non-proliferation.
The United Nations General Assembly recently passed a resolution condemning the regime’s “widespread and gross violations of human rights” as documented by the U.N. Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (COI) in a report detailing the regime’s brutality.
The COI conducted more than 200 interviews with victims, eyewitnesses, and former officials, and held public hearings at which more than 80 witnesses gave testimony, all of which, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, “show North Korea for what it is: a living nightmare.”
A former prisoner, said she and others were so famished they picked corn kernels from cattle dung. “We had to eat everything alive, every type of meat we could find. Everything that flew, that crawled on the ground, any grass that grew in the field.”
December 22nd’s historic session also reflected the growing consensus among Council members and UN member states that these appalling human rights violations are not only deplorable in their own right, but that the situation in the North Korea poses a clear threat to regional and international peace and security.
It is critical to seek ways to advance accountability for those most responsible for these abuses. “When regimes warn of deadly reprisals against countries that condemn their atrocities, as the North Koreans have done, that is precisely the moment when we need stand up and not back down,” said Ambassador Power in her statement. “Dictators who see threats are an effective tool for silencing the international community tend to be emboldened and not placated.”
North Korea remains among the world’s most serious violators of rights. The United States continues to urge clear cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms.
“What is unconscionable in the face of these widespread abuses,” said Ambassador Power, “is to stay silent. Silence will not make the North Korean government end its abuses. Silence will not make the international community safer.”