Statement by Sweden at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
National Statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 11 December 2017, New York.
Let me begin by thanking High Commissioner Zeid and Assistant Secretary-General Jenča for their thoughtful and forceful interventions today.
We welcome the discussion today in the Council on the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Serious human rights violations, such as those described by the briefers should also be seen in the broader context. A lack of respect for the human rights of one's own people is a signpost to a wider disregard for the international norms and standards that form the basis of our international community.
In today's DPRK, its leadership's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is built on the back of an unparalleled system of repression directed towards ordinary North Koreans. The links between a lack of respect for human rights, humanitarian crisis, and the threat to international peace and security is clear.
Conversely, respect for human rights in the DPRK would not only contribute to the well-being and dignity of the people of the country, but also promote security and stability in the region and beyond.
It is very difficult to obtain comprehensive information about the human rights situation in the country. However, the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, successive reports by the Secretary General and other information, including from civil society organisations, are all consistent in describing the very serious human rights situation in the country.
The list of human rights violations is long, and the violations are systematic, widespread and gross. Violations cut across all areas of human rights including civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The list includes reports and witness testimonies of public as well as extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions; of torture, rape and other forms of sexual and gender based violence; of systematic violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion. It also includes a lack of the right to food and the right to health, leading to severe hunger and malnutrition, which is hitting women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons disproportionally hard. Sweden notes the importance of the issue of international abductions and of the lack of positive action by the DPRK on returning abducted Japanese nationals.
We must make every effort to end impunity, seek accountability and secure truth and justice for all victims. Any attempt to achieve lasting peace and stability demands justice and redress for the victims of human rights violations in the DPRK. We welcome the report of the Group of Experts on Accountability and its recommendations. We further welcome the steps identified by the group that can be taken immediately to contribute to a comprehensive approach towards accountability in the DPRK.
Despite the time that has passed since the release of the Commission of Inquiry´s report in 2014, the relevance and urgency of the Commission's recommendations have not diminished, and need to be implemented.
We welcome the important work carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul and the work of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea and strongly urge the Government to grant the Special Rapporteur and other mandate-holders full, free and impeded access to the country.
In this respect, we welcome the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities to the DPRK as a step in the right direction.
This Council has previously expressed its regret that the government of the DPRK diverts critical resources into expensive weapons programmes. This, despite the fact that the humanitarian needs in the country remain enormous; not least as regards food security. The responsibility to protect and uphold the wellbeing of its people indisputably falls on the government of DPRK.
The humanitarian crisis is a manifestation of its disregard for the human rights of its people.
Sweden and other parts of the international community continue to provide lifesaving assistance. But more is needed, including support for the UN's humanitarian appeal for the country, which remains severely underfunded. Our embassy in Pyongyang has been in regular contact with the DPRK authorities and humanitarian organisations. We understand that these organisations' ability to provide much needed assistance has been reduced. Other reports have confirmed these worrying findings. We remind the government of the DPRK of its obligation to provide to humanitarian organisations the access they need to perform their work.
It is of utmost importance that the humanitarian exemptions provided for under the sanctions are upheld. Today's meeting in the 1718 committee important opportunity to discuss these issues.
Sweden encourages the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to cooperate with the international community and to engage constructively with the United Nations system, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea must realize that its system of repression cannot survive indefinitely. People will always find ways to evade it, to gain access to information and even to escape. History has shown us that the human spirit will eventually triumph. The same will one day be true for the people of North Korea.