A United Nations committee passed a resolution condemning North Korea’s egregious human rights violations for the 19th straight year.
In a meeting in New York on Wednesday, the Third Committee of the UN passed with consensus the draft resolution that condemns “in the strongest terms the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in and by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK],” referring to North Korea by its official name.
It was the 19th such resolution passed by the committee, which will be voted on at the UN General Assembly next month.
The draft resolution’s contents largely held to previous years’ resolutions but particularly highlighted forced repatriations of North Korean defectors.
Since North Korea reopened its borders after the Covid-19 shutdown, hundreds of North Koreans in border regions with China have been forcibly repatriated, according to reports.
“Serious human rights violations suffered by these forcibly repatriated escapees have been well-documented,” said Hwang Joon-kook, South Korean ambassador to the UN, during the meeting.
“We call upon all member states to uphold the non-refoulement principle and to provide assistance to ensure that North Korean escapees in third countries are not repatriated back to the DPRK against their will and are able to move safely and expeditiously to wherever they wish.”
The resolution strongly urges all UN member states to “respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement” especially in light of a resumption of cross-border travel.
It also asks all member states to “treat those who seek refuge humanely” and to ensure “unhindered access” to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and his office to protect the human rights of those escaping the regime’s persecution.
Despite media reports, China’s Foreign Ministry has denied the existence of North Korean defectors in China. Beijing sees North Korean defectors as illegal migrants.
The resolution also called for humane treatment of defectors sent back to North Korea, that they would not be “subjected to any kind of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, arbitrary executions, torture and ill-treatment and trials that do not conform with international fair trial guarantees.”
Defectors returned to North Korea can face severe punishment, including execution.
In calling to attention the dire human rights violations in North Korea, a U.S. representative to the UN called North Korea “one of the world’s most repressive states” during the meeting.
She also highlighted the North’s control and manipulation of its overseas workers who work in “inhumane conditions” without freedom of movement up to 18 hours a day, whose income, she said, the regime exploits to sustain its “unlawful” weapons of mass destruction programs.
North Korea’s UN Ambassador Kim Song kept to the usual rhetoric of blasting the United States, the European Union and “Western countries” for what he called their “double standards” in abetting “racial discrimination” and “violence against women and children” in other parts of the world.
“It is a typical manifestation of the hypocrisy, double standards, and shamelessness that the European Union is clamoring about the human rights problem of our nation, instead of saying a word about Israel, which has massacred a large number of innocent civilians including children by indiscriminate military attack in Palestine,” Kim said, adding that the United States is also to blame.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]