News / Asia

UN Investigators Seek China Access for North Korea Rights Probe

Retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, Chairman of the U.N.-mandated Commission of Inquiry, Oct 31, 2013.
Retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, Chairman of the U.N.-mandated Commission of Inquiry, Oct 31, 2013.
A U.N. investigator says he has asked China to grant access to his team as it conducts an inquiry into suspected human rights abuses in neighboring North Korea.

In an interview with VOA in Washington Thursday, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby said he hopes his U.N.-mandated Commission of Inquiry will be able to visit China within the next two months.

The team has to finish writing its report on North Korea's human rights record by the beginning of February, so that it can be edited and translated ahead of its presentation to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

Commission chairman Kirby said that if China grants access to the commission, it is unlikely that any evidence will be provided to the investigators in public. He was speaking at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, on the sidelines of a public hearing about alleged North Korean human rights abuses.

Examining food insecurity

The two-day hearing concluded Thursday, with testimony from American analysts who accused North Korea's authoritarian leadership of deliberately hindering efforts by foreign aid groups to deliver food to malnourished and starving North Koreans.

Kirby asked the analysts who they think should be held accountable in North Korea for its famine of the 1990s, when hundreds of thousands of people died.

The analysts said North Korea's system of government was highly centralized, with then-North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Il making decisions that obstructed foreign aid and undermined domestic food production.

North Korea has denied any rights abuses and refused to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, calling it a hostile political act.

Defectors' disturbing stories

Kirby heard testimony from North Korean defectors living in the United States on Wednesday. He described his reaction to the tearful account of 26-year-old Jin Hye Jo, who moved to the United States in 2008.

"We had a sad and indeed gruesome story of the suffering of a young woman - really just a girl at the time - of most of her suffering as she lost, in succession, her brother, her grandmother, her father and another sibling, and saw all around her, people starving to death and otherwise dying," he said. "So this is not an inquiry for the faint-hearted."

The U.N. investigators already have interviewed more than 200 victims, witnesses and analysts in a series of hearings in South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Britain this year.

Kirby said the often-harrowing testimony has affected him deeply.

"I was a judge in my own country, Australia, for 34 years, and I've seen a lot of disturbing testimony over my time. But even for me, I found the tears are often not far. And that's unusual, because you get a certain coldness of heart over years of performing the judicial function. Here, I'm not a judge and I'm not a prosecutor, but I'm conducting an inquiry into really tragic circumstances of very great suffering and great deprivation of human rights, and it can sometimes be very upsetting."

Keeping investigation credible

He said there are several ways to determine whether the people testifying are being honest.

"Their testimony is consistent, one with the other. They don't know each other, and their testimony is also available to be measured against objective material that is available to the Commission of Inquiry. And essentially, people can judge from the appearance of the witnesses as to whether they are telling the truth. And their testimony is now online and available. And I think it is on the whole extremely convincing."

Kirby said the commission has tried to be fair to North Korea by asking those testifying to respond to North Korean statements made to the United Nations about human rights.

He also predicted that North Korea will not be able to avoid scrutiny for long, saying that ultimately, "answers will be demanded" by the international community on the basis of his team's report and recommendations.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid