On January 4th, multiple human rights organizations submitted reports to the United Nations Human Rights Committee ahead of the consideration of the List of Issues Prior to Reporting for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) for the Committee’s 131st Session. The Committee regularly accepts reports on how nations are – or are not – abiding by its obligations as states party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Among the most common concerns regarding North Korea that were raised by NGOs and other organizations include violations of religious freedom and freedom of movement (i.e., exiting the country); violations and discrimination against women; and torture and inhuman treatment in North Korean detention facilities.
Jubilee Campaign submitted its report on North Korea to the Committee to “demonstrate that little to no progress has been made…with regards to fully implementing the ICCPR.” Especially with regards to derogating from promising religious freedom to citizens, North Korea has engaged in arbitrary arrest and prolonged imprisonment, physical torture, coerced labor, forced exile, and even execution against the nation’s faithful, whose ‘crimes’ are as harmless as owning a bible or attending clandestine churches. In an interview with Voice of America, Jubilee Campaign Executive Director Ann Buwalda stated the following:
“They [the government of North Korea] completely deny their citizens any right of worship and any right to any belief even held in private. So we continue to raise this derogation of rights every chance we can within the UN context. I’ve been at the UN meetings where some of these reports are deliberated and what you find is [that] many times North Korean officials don’t appear. But occasionally they will come, and when they do, they just reject [claims] out of hand. They attack the presenters or they simply deny any truth to the allegations.”
In our report, we also raise the plight of North Korean women who face specific types of human rights violations due to their status as a gender minority. We reference a 2000 decision by the Committee asserting that, in prison and detention contexts, forced abortions and rape amount to instances of torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and therefore violate Article 7 of the ICCPR. Overwhelmingly in North Korean detention centers, women prisoners – especially those that have attempted to escape but were repatriated – face the above violations, as well as forced miscarriages, sexual abuse, infanticide, and invasive body searches.
Another organization that submitted to the Human Rights Committee regarding North Korea is the World Evangelical Alliance. In their report, they highlight that “in the DPRK, Christianity is considered as a serious threat to loyalty to the state, and it is therefore ferociously oppressed.” WEA references Korea Future Initiative, whose report documents 20 instances of executions of persons who were charged with religious ‘crimes.’ Additionally, WEA addresses the multiple dangers that North Korean women and girls face during their defections; they are often met with sexual trafficking, exploitation in prostitution, and being coerced into the cybersex industry. World Evangelical Alliance’s rights advocate Wisam al-Salibi stated the following during his interview with VOA:
“As the only evangelical Christian organization in Geneva to cooperate with the United Nations, I think it is important to add a voice to the unacceptable situation in North Korea. I made a list of queries.”