The North Korean delegation at the UN have said they will examine 185 of 268 human rights recommendations handed to them by member states of the Human Rights Council (HRC) Tuesday at the 19th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The 11-man delegation headed by the Permanent Representative of the DPRK Mission in Geneva, So Se Pyong, agreed to examine and respond to the recommendations by the 27th Session of the HRC which takes place in September this year.
The delegation also took the opportunity to say that it was committed to fulfilling its international human rights obligations and “expressed the conviction that the review would serve as an occasion to promote understanding of the real human rights situation in [the] DPRK”.
The recommendations were presented to North Korea in a Draft report of the Working Group on the UPR and were informed by ongoing concerns on North Korea’s human rights record and the contents of the recent UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) report.
The COI was given a mandate by the HRC to investigate human rights abuses in North Korea and its final report detailed “widespread and systematic” abuses that amounted to “crimes against humanity”.
North Korea deem the 372 page COI report to be a fabrication created by what it calls “hostile forces” and which So said was published to, “defame the dignified image of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and eventually eliminate its social system.”
Despite agreeing to take into consideration over half of the recommendations within the UPR draft report however, the North Korean delegation dismissed all recommendations that mentioned the COI.
Calls for North Korea to become party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for which the COI concluded North Korean officials should be referred to for prosecution, were similarly rejected outright.
The North Korean delegation also rejected, amongst others, calls to reform elections, to provide public and fair trials, to close its prison camps and to abolish the death penalty and public executions.
Amongst the recommendations it agreed to examine were calls to ratify UN Human Rights treaties that included the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED).
The delegation also said it would examine recommendations to allow greater access and monitoring conditions for international aid organizations, to place a moratorium on the death penalty and to end forced abortions.
A PROPER EXAMINATION?
Despite sending a sizeable delegation and agreeing to examine a large number of human rights recommendations, it remains unlikely that North Korea are committed to addressing the issues cited during the UPR.
During the previous UPR in 2009, North Korea were presented with 167 recommendations and similarly agreed to review the majority of them.
“Previously what had happened was they were issued 167 recommendations and agreed to review 117 of those. Out of those 167 recommendations none – not a single one was implemented in real life,” said Greg Scarlatoiu the Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).
The North Korean issued statements prior to the review saying that North Korea had, since 2009, passed more pieces of human rights legislation domestically than ever before and were subsequently praised HRC member states, including close ally China, for adopting that legislation and for taking part in the UPR.
“Human Rights reform is about much more than the number of delegates sent to Geneva, more than the number of certain laws that have been passed. What truly matters is aside from having the laws in place is having the willingness and government capacity to implement those laws,” Scarlatoiu said.
Scarlatoiu believes that despite the delegation’s comments and positive assertions to review recommendations, that they are not genuinely committed to addressing the issues raised and are using their participation to, amongst other things, reiterate that they do not believe in country specific mechanisms like the COI.
“Of course it is about given the semblance that they are participating in this process,” Scarlatoiu added.
“I think it is also a matter of backing up the view point of those member countries of the human rights council that are against country specific mechanisms and in favour of the UPR. I think in a way it is a matter of aligning themselves to that position and quite frankly the UPR does not have much teeth,” Scarlatoiu added.
As for the prospects that this year’s UPR will bring about significant change, Scarlatoiu says it remains unlikely.
“I would be the first one to rejoice if this were really a step in the right direction but based on the previous record I doubt it,” Scarlatoiu said.
Featured Images: United States Mission, Creative Commons
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