[General]Special Rapporteur Refers to NKDB’s Efforts in Recent Report for the 55th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

19 Mar 2024
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 On March 18, 2024, Elizabeth Salmón, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), presented her report (A/HRC/55/63) at the 55th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. In preparation, the Special Rapporteur had called on member states, civil society organizations, and victims to contribute their insights for the drafting of the report. The report evaluates various accountability efforts made in the past decade following the 2014 findings by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK (COI DPRK). In 2014, the Commission of Inquiry had concluded that the DPRK, its institutions, and officials were responsible for “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations,” which amount to “crimes against humanity.” The COI also urged the international community to take action against the human rights violations of the DPRK, including referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

 In the continued spirit of accountability, the Special Rapporteur highlights in her recent report some efforts made by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB), among other civil society actors, from both judicial and non-judicial perspectives. Notably, the Special Rapporteur refers to the documentation efforts of NKDB, as the organization currently manages the largest repository of human rights violations related to the DPRK (1). Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur echoes NKDB’s emphasis on the value of victim-centered approaches to accountability, including the education of victims on the legal remedies available under different jurisdictions (2). Along with efforts to bring cases to the South Korean judicial system, NKDB’s memorization initiatives, such as an online museum (“Larchiveum”) and in-person exhibition (“The Echo Never Stops”), are underscored in the Special Rapporteur’s report (3, 4).

 Despite progress made by civil society and other stakeholders, the Special Rapporteur maintains the need for ongoing and innovative measures toward accountability, advocating for greater international cooperation and inclusion of the voices of the North Korean people. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur proposes several recommendations to the DPRK, including but not limited to the diplomatic engagement of humanitarian agencies, compliance with UN human rights mechanisms, and reform of the criminal justice system. The Special Rapporteur also acknowledges the role of other member states, such as China and the Republic of Korea, by providing them with recommendations on the discontinuation of forced repatriation, expansion of resettlement assistance, adoption of extraterritorial/universal jurisdiction, and more. Thus, NKDB finds in this report a renewed sense of commitment to conveying the needs and interests of the North Korean people to various members of the international community.

 Please find the full report (unedited version) here: https://seoul.ohchr.org/en/node/556

1. Main Text (p. 15) “The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights has documented ‘89,958 cases of violations and information on 55,608 individuals related to these cases’ in its database.” [Based on Submission made by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights.] 

2. Footnotes (p. 6) “For instance, Submission made by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights states ‘Many who have escaped the oppressive regime might be unaware of the available legal avenues in South Korea.’” [Based on Submission made by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights.] 

3. Main Text (p. 7) “Some civil society organizations have increasingly focused on pursuing criminal accountability, particularly in the Republic of Korea. According to their submissions, they provide knowledge and technical skills to legal practitioners to bring cases in the national jurisdiction.” [Based on Submission made by the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights and Database Center for North Korean Human Rights.] 

4. Main Text (p. 15) “Civil society organizations in the Republic of Korea have been engaged in exploring memorialization efforts including operating an ‘online museum.’” [Based on Submission made by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights.]