Failure to protect – the ongoing challenge of North Korea

Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights
Download the PDF of the report here:  nkhr.pdf
Press release here.

Executive Summary:
The human rights and humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is still, as the UN Secretary-General has stated, “unacceptable.”

Although the country has opened up to some international food assistance, because of the food policy and the inequities of its political caste system, large segments of the North Korean population never receive any of the food provided by international relief agencies and other countries. There is no indication that the food situation is about to change. One illustration of the seriousness of the food crisis and of North Korea’s treatment of defectors is the execution of 15 people in public in the North-Eastern town of Onseong in February 2008 after they had attempted to flee North Korea to obtain economic aid from relatives in China.

Furthermore, North Korea’s political prison camps continue to operate with the same level of brutality and massive disregard for basic human rights as initially detailed in the previous report Failure to Protect.

The North Korea crisis also has serious spill-over effects in the form of refugees to neighboring countries. North Korean refugees who do not have families to finance a relatively safe escape often end up as victims of exploitation, violence, or crime when they cross into other countries. Women are forced into sex trade or coerced marriages while children and men face higher mortality risk.

In the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test in October 2006, the Six-Party Talks reached a deal for the normalization of relations between the parties and the denuclearization of North Korea. However, the discussions about the human rights and humanitarian challenges within North Korea remain largely an issue of secondary concern.

It is the intention of this report to fill this gap: to raise the human rights and humanitarian concerns and to promote the inclusion of those in these ongoing negotiations and through greater international involvement with North Korea.

For the purposes of further engagement between the North and the South, the Six Parties, and the broader international community, we present a series of recommendations at the end of this report which, in sum:

• Advocate greater international engagement with North Korea on human rights and humanitarian concerns;
• Urge the inclusion of human rights and humanitarian concerns into all the Working Groups of the Six-Party Talks, with the exception of the Working Group on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula;
• Suggest the UN General Assembly strengthen its annual resolution on North Korea by including reference to the “responsibility to protect” doctrine and recommending a group of experts be appointed to investigate if the severe violations of human rights in North Korea constitute a violation of this doctrine; and
• Advise the Government of South Korea to take a number of steps to both provide famine relief to the North Korean people and increase its emphasis on human rights and humanitarian concerns related to North Korea.


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