About the Author
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 UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Friday that strengthens the capacity of human rights mechanisms and extends the mandates of key personnel and offices monitoring North Korean human rights abuses.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on North Korean human rights has been extended for one year, while the mandate for the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – and its field office in Seoul – has been extended for two years. The resolution also seeks to strengthen the capacity of the OHCHR to collect evidence of North Korean human rights violations.
“The Council condemns in the strongest terms the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and other human rights abuses committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the resolution reads.
It added that the council will “strengthen, for a period of two years, the capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, including its field-based structure in Seoul, to allow the implementation of relevant recommendations made by the group of independent experts.”
These recommendations are aimed at “strengthening current monitoring and documentation efforts, establishing a central information and evidence repository, and having experts in legal accountability assess all information and testimonies with a view to developing possible strategies to be used in any future accountability process.”
The Seoul-based field office opened in June of 2015, with North Korea rejecting its establishment as a “smear” campaign – a claim the country constantly makes in the face of human rights criticisms and resolutions.
“The extension of the field office for two years shows how valuable the initiative is for collecting authoritative evidence of crimes against humanity. The output from the field office so far has been impressive. That will have no doubt convinced stakeholders of the need for an extension beyond one year,” Michael Glendinning, the Director of the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK), told NK News.
“The collation and collection of evidence will no doubt play a part in attempts to refer individuals to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as new evidence will give stakeholders continual ammo to press for it, but it will also have a use in the more recent discussions on the alternative route to justice through an ad hoc tribunal,” Glendinning added.
The resolution also requests that the High Commissioner provide an oral update on the progress made on the implementation of the recommendations pertaining to accountability for DPRK human rights violations, at the Human Rights Council’s 37th Session.
Malta introduced the draft resolution on behalf of the European Union and, while the resolution was adopted without a vote, member states with ties to the DPRK or who have opposed country-specific human rights mandates “dissociated” themselves “from the consensus”.
This includes Bolivia, China, Cuba, Egypt, and Venezuela. North Korean representatives at the UN were not present for the adoption of the resolution, according to a UN press release.