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View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed on Thursday that a UN office will be set up in South Korea, dedicated to monitoring the human rights situation in North Korea.
The South Korean foreign ministry also confirmed to local media on Thursday that they had accepted the OHCHR request for the field based structure to be located in South Korea.
The office will function as a long term field-based structure that will continue the work of the UN Commission of Inquiry in investigating and collecting evidence of the human rights abuses in North Korea.
“I think its very encouraging that they have set up the office so quickly, it is very important to have a follow up to the report and to have an office that will be able to continue along the same lines and to continue to provide insight into North Korea,” Sonja Biserko, one of the commissioners of the COI, told NK News.
The historic 372 UN COI report found that systematic and widespread human rights abuses have occurred and are continuing to occur in North Korea and that in some instances the violations amount to crimes against humanity.
In making its recommendations to the international community and the UN, the COI report stated that a field-based structure should be set up to “build on the collection of evidence and documentation work of the commission, and further expand its database.”
“It was a recommendation that we had in the report and it is a positive step that it is being set-up…South Korea really is the best place for the office to be,” Biserko said.
The recommendation stressed the importance of the structure being field-based and regional so to allow adequate and sustained access to victims and witnesses of North Korean human rights violations.
The report significantly recommended that North Korean leaders responsible for the abuses, including current leader Kim Jong Un, should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.
The report stated that the field-based structure, in addition to reporting and monitoring human rights abuses, should also “facilitate United Nations efforts to prosecute, or otherwise render accountable, those most responsible for crimes against humanity.”
“As I read the reactions from the report I believe it has had a big impact on the elites within North Korea as well, I do think something significant will come from this landmark report,” Biserko said.
“The report created a lot of momentum and hopefully the office will provide even more of an impact,” Biserko told NK News.
Image: Wikimedia Commons