National / Politics

Japan and EU submit annual resolution criticizing North Korea's rights abuses

Kyodo, AP

Japan and the European Union have submitted a resolution to a U.N. panel criticizing North Korea human rights violations.

The resolution, expected to be adopted in mid-November, was submitted to the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with humanitarian issues. Such a resolution has been put forward for 13 years straight, with this year’s version ramping up criticism on issues including the abduction of Japanese nationals.

According to a draft obtained by Kyodo News, the resolution says that over half of the approximately 25.5 million people in North Korea suffer from major food and health care insecurities and about one-fourth of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition.

It condemns Pyongyang for diverting resources to developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles instead of using them for the welfare of its people.

The draft notes the findings of a 2014 U.N. commission’s inquiry into human rights in North Korea that found “reasonable grounds that crimes against humanity” have been committed. The commission concluded that a range of crimes, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, persecution, deliberate starvation and disappearances were committed “pursuant to policies at the highest level of the state.”

After North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, the Security Council adopted a resolution imposing further sanctions, including restrictions on exports of crude oil and petroleum products to the reclusive country and banning U.N. members from hiring North Korean laborers.

If the new resolution is approved, which is virtually certain, the world body’s 193 member states will vote on the final text in December. All previous resolutions condemning North Korea’s human rights record have been adopted.

The draft strongly urges North Korea’s government to end human rights violations, including immediately closing political prison camps and releasing all political prisoners, addressing impunity and cooperating with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It urges the government to allow all North Koreans freedom of movement and freedom to leave the country, including to seek asylum, and to ensure that those who are expelled or returned to the country are not punished.

North Korea earns foreign currency from workers sent abroad who make a meager income because the government takes the lion’s share of their earnings, though the practice has been curtailed by the latest sanctions. The draft resolution urges the government to join the International Labor Organization and comply with international labor standards.

Last week, the United Nations’ independent expert on human rights in North Korea, Tomas Ojea Quintana, warned the assembly rights committee that tough U.N. sanctions might be affecting the rights of civilians and called for an assessment of their impact.

The draft resolution doesn’t address the impact of sanctions, only the impact of diverting resources to advance nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs “on the humanitarian and human rights situation of the citizens” of North Korea.