UN's new Inquiry into North Korean crimes against humanity | Asia Pacific

UN's new Inquiry into North Korean crimes against humanity

UN's new Inquiry into North Korean crimes against humanity

Updated 28 January 2013, 21:42 AEDT

The United Nations is closer to setting up a Commission of Inquiry into North Korea's crimes against humanity.

Japan has confirmed its support, along with co-sponsors, the European Union.

The new Inquiry will launch an 'in-depth' investigation into human rights violations by the North Korean regime, both domestically and abroad.

Human Rights Watch sent a letter on the issue to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month.

The new Commission of Inquiry will be supported by a considerable budget, with a dedicated staff.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Kanae Doi, Japan director, Human Rights Watch

DOI: The human rights record of North Korea is egregious, it's one of the worst in the world, so it is very reasonable and right for the Japanese government to care about the situation. And then in addition that, there are several Japanese nationals who were abducted by the North Korean government, which in fact the North Korean government has admitted. And also we know that a couple of hundreds of Japanese nationals claim that their loved ones might have been abducted by the North Korean government. So the Japanese government is interested in the human rights abuses in North Korea - in particular, that of abducted Japanese.

LAM: Can you tell us more about the probe - who will conduct it, what's its focus?

DOI: The new international inquiry is very important because although the human rights situation in North Korea has been abysmal and appalling for a long time, but not enough attention has been given by the international community. So we would like to boost that attention, and we'd like to give voices (to the victims). And in order to do so, currently we have a Special Rapporteur, one person, who's looking into the situation, the human rights situation in North Korea, but it's really not enough. We're proposing a Commission of Inquiry which would give a team to the Special Rapporteur, who should be leading this investigation. The commissioners would look into the human rights situation in North Korea, as well as the rights abuses committed by North Korea outside of its territory, including abductees, all the deprivations of food and so on.

LAM: What's the difference between this new inquiry and others which have taken place before it? Is it because this new UN Inquiry will focus solely on North Korea and nothing else?

DOI: We have some Commissions of Inquiry established in the past, for example, there's one into Syria, working right now. And then the UN had established Commissions of Inquiry on Libya for example, the Cote D'Ivoire and so on. This Commission of Inquiry is understood to be the most important mechanism, with an authority to looking into grave human rights violations. What we want is a really in-depth investigation which would give the comprehensive texture of the situation and then give voice to hundreds and thousands of victims of the violations by the North Korean government. In order to do so, we should have commissiioners, perhaps military people, and also a team to support the Commissioners, in order to give the full picture to the world.

LAM: How meaningful do you think this exercise will be, even though it's supposed to be in-depth, if we can't get North Korea to shift or to cooperate?

DOI: Ya, it still can be very meaningful, even if North Korea does not cooperate, because we have alot of escapees outside of North Korea already, so we can interview thousands of the escapees. And then, we can use evidence such as satellite imageries and so on. And of course we can interview relatives of victims. So it's not necessary to go into North Korea.

We'll have a very authoritative report, talk about the facts, what's happening in North Korea and then, this report will recommend the international community, including the North Korean government, the UN and other governments, what steps they should take, in order to address the situation.

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