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Experts Praise Exposure of Pyongyang's Abuses

  • Victor Beattie

Michael Kirby, chairperson of the commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, shows the commission's report during a press conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 17, 2014.
Analysts are hailing a United Nations report that accuses North Korea of “unspeakable atrocities" and crimes against humanity. They say the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea has revealed a systematic litany of abuse that is difficult for the international community to ignore.

VOA’s Victor Beattie interviewed two human rights experts familiar with the commission’s investigation and human rights issues in North Korea. Greg Scarlatoiu is Executive Director of the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and Stephen Noerper is Senior Vice President of the New York-based Korea Society.

BEATTIE: Could we call this the first high-level investigative report into allegations of North Korea’s human rights violations?

NOERPER: It is indeed. And that’s what makes this incredibly important. It was the first widespread one. International human rights groups, university professors and international law experts have worked on this for a great deal of time. But this is the first time that it is had this level of international concern. And I think the consensus probably is that this process should be renewed and continued especially considering the depravity of many of the accounts that have been told.

SCARLATOIU: Furthermore, this is an impartial commission. It rigorously investigated a tremendous number of documents and interviewed numerous witnesses. It covers a broad range of violations. It recognizes that the Kim regimes’ systematic murder, abduction, torture, starvation, religious persecution, and political imprisonment of its people must be brought to an end.

BEATTIE: What impact will this likely have on the international community?

SCARLATOIU: This is the first time ever that a U.N. body has established that crimes against humanity have been committed. What this means is that fundamentally the price of unconditionally supporting a regime that has certifiably committed crimes against humanity is going to be high. This is going to make it increasingly difficult for P5 members – permanent members of the Security Council – to unconditionally support the North Korean regime, the Kim regime, to maintain that position.

BEATTIE: You, of course, are referring to China’s past support for North Korea. Would China likely block U.N. action on these findings?

NOERPER: Certainly it would not be in China’s long term interest. The types of atrocities that have been outlined are such that it’s very, very hard to imagine that any regime, be it in Beijing or otherwise, could stand up very long and in any way credibly defend Pyongyang on these sorts of abuses.