Although in recent weeks the international focus has been on North Korea’s nuclear weapons test, the situation in that country is also one of the most egregious human rights and humanitarian disasters in the world today. Yet sadly, because North Korea is also one of the most closed societies on Earth, information about the situation there has only trickled out over time.
With the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of the doctrine that each state has a “responsibility to protect” its own citizens from the most egregious of human rights abuses, a new instrument for international diplomacy has emerged.
While states retain sovereignty to control their own territory, if they fail to protect their own citizens from severe human rights abuses, the international community now has an obligation to intervene through regional bodies and the United Nations, up to and including the Security Council.
In this context, we commissioned the global law firm DLA Piper LLP to work with the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea in preparing an objective and definitive report on the failure of the North Korean government to exercise its responsibility to protect its own people.
The evidence and analysis contained in this report is deeply disturbing. Indeed, it is clear that Kim Jong Il and the North Korean government are actively committing crimes against humanity. North Korea allowed as many as one million, and possibly many more, of its own people to die during the famine in the 1990s. Hunger and starvation remain a persistent problem, with over 37 percent of children in North Korea chronically malnourished. Furthermore, North Korea imprisons upwards of 200,000 people in its modern-day gulag, and it is estimated more than 400,000 have died in that system over 30 years.
It is on this basis that we strongly urge the UN Security Council to take up the situation of North Korea. Protecting the people of North Korea requires nothing less.
Former President of the Czech Republic
Kjell Magne Bondevik
Former Prime Minister of Norway
Professor Elie Wiesel, Boston University
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1986)