GENEVA – A North Korean defector and 28 advocacy groups led by the Geneva-based UN Watch today urged nations to protest Pyongyang’s chairmanship of the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament, the world’s only multilateral forum for nuclear arms diplomacy.
UN Watch presented the joint appeal at a press conference attended by Reuters, AP, Agence France Presse and a dozen other news agencies from around the world. North Korea today began chairing a 6-week session of the 65-member arms control forum.
- See below for today’s joint appeal by 28 human rights NGOs
- Transcript of today’s remarks by North Korean defector Kim Joo-il
- Photos of today’s protest in front of UN European headquarters in Geneva
“Allowing an international outlaw to oversee international arms control efforts is just plain wrong,” UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer told reporters. “North Korea is a ruthless regime that menaces its neighbors and starves its own people, and should not be granted the propaganda coup of heading a world body dedicated to peace.”
Canada is boycotting the conference until North Korea’s term expires in September. The two countries exchanged verbal blows in a UN debate last week after Ottawa raised objections to the propriety of Pyongyang’s presidency.
Former North Korean army captain Kim Joo-il, a defector now living in Britain, told reporters that the regime is using its presidency “as propaganda for manipulating its residents,” to “perpetuate idolatry” of dictator Kim Jong-il and the “slavery” of North Koreans.
“Even if the presidency of North Korea of the Conference on Disarmament remains only for one hour — not even a week or a month — it is symbolic. The support of the international community is going to push North Korean residents even more into the hell that they are already living in right now,” said Kim Joo-il.
Joint Statement of NGOs Against North Korea’s
Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament
The undersigned coalition of human rights and non-governmental organizations strongly protest North Korea’s presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), for the reasons described below. We call on all CD Member States to register their protest, as Canada has already done. We also call on North Korea to hand over its presidency to a more suitable country.
1. North Korea is a Gross Violator of Disarmament Principles and Flouts UN Security Council Decisions
The North Korean regime has no credibility on disarmament. Few if any countries pose a greater nuclear threat to the world than North Korea. The rogue regime, led by the unstable dictator Kim Jong-il, possesses an estimated dozen nuclear weapons combined with a record of hostile actions and threats to its neighbors and the world at large. Moreover, as reported by a UN panel last year, North Korea has defied UN sanctions and used front companies to export nuclear and missile technology to the repressive regimes in Iran, Syria and Burma.
Just last week, the IAEA found that North Korea’s nuclear program remains a matter of “serious concern,” noting reports about the construction of a new uranium enrichment facility and a light water reactor.
Even for a short period, the symbolism of an international outlaw heading “the undisputed home of international arms control efforts”—as the CD was recently described by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon—is terribly wrong.
We further note:
- On July 15, 2006, ten days after North Korea test launched a series of missiles, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1695 requiring all UN member states to “prevent the transfer of missile and missile-related items, materials, goods and technology to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s missile or weapons of mass destruction programs, as well as procurement of such items and technology from that country.” The resolution further cited North Korea for having “endangered civil aviation and shipping through its failure to provide adequate advance notice.”
- On October 7, 2006, three years after it withdrew from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. In response, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1718, finding North Korea’s actions to constitute “a clear threat to international peace and security,” barring a range of military goods from entering or leaving North Korea, and imposing an asset freeze and travel ban on persons related to the nuclear-weapon program.
- In April 2009, North Korea violated this resolution with another rocket launch. The President of the Security Council issued a statement condemning North Korea, and demanded that it cease conducting further launches.
In May 2009, North Korea conducted another nuclear test, detonating a bomb comparable to those that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1874, finding that North Korea’s clear threat to international peace and security “continues to exist,” and sharpening the import-export ban of weapons to North Korea by calling on all states to inspect, seize and dispose of military items and deny fuel or supplies to vessels carrying them.
- Two months ago, U.S. Navy warships intercepted a North Korean vessel carrying missiles to Burma and turned it around.
North Korea has allowed millions of its own people to literally starve to death in order to pursue its illicit nuclear-weapons arsenal. North Korea is currently facing another famine. Yet history shows that aid may not even help. An estimated two million people were killed by famine in the 1990s, while Kim Jong-il and his regime kept foreign aid for themselves.
2. North Korea is a Gross Violator of Human Rights
As one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, North Korea should not be granted the symbolic legitimacy of chairing a world body dedicated to peace.
The United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council have repeatedly condemned North Korea for its massive violations of human rights. Resolution 65/225 (2010), the UNGA’s most recent condemnation of North Korea, found, inter alia, the following gross violations:
- Systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights;
- Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including inhuman conditions of detention, public executions, extrajudicial and arbitrary detention;
- The absence of due process and the rule of law, including fair trial guarantees and an independent judiciary;
- The imposition of the death penalty for political and religious reasons;
- Collective punishments;
- The existence of a large number of prison camps and the extensive use of forced labour;
- All-pervasive and severe restrictions on the freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, the right to privacy and equal access to information, by such means as the persecution of individuals exercising their freedom of opinion and expression, and their families, and on the right of everyone to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives, of his or her country;
- The violations of economic, social and cultural rights, which have led to severe malnutrition, widespread health problems and other hardship for the population in North Korea, in particular for persons in exposed groups such as women, children and the elderly;
- Violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women, in particular the trafficking of women for the purpose of prostitution or forced marriage and the subjection of women to human smuggling, forced abortions, gender-based discrimination, including in the economic sphere, and gender-based violence; and
- Violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of children, in particular the continued lack of access to basic economic, social and cultural rights for many children.
Hillel C. Neuer
Free the North Korean Gulag
North Korean Residents Society
Yang Jianli, Initiatives for China – Former prisoner of conscience and survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre
Yang Kuanxing, Yibao – Chinese writer, original signatory to Charter 08, the manifesto calling for political reform in ChinaYang
Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour
International Quranic Center
International Christian Concern, USA
Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar
Center for Youth and Democracy, Somalia
Moroccan Organisation For Human Rights (OMDH)
Norwegian Church Aid
Asia Desk, Society for Threatened Peoples, Germany
Ali Abdullahi Egal (Ali Bashi)
Fanole Human Rights & Development Organization, Kenya & Somalia
UN Reform Advocates
Dr. Francois Ullmann
Ingenieurs du Monde
Dr. Vanee Meisinger
Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women’s Association of Thailand
Dr S.M. Thadhani
Mulchand & Parpati Thadhani Foundation
Dickson M. David Ntwiga
Solidarity House International, Kenya
A. P. Gautam
Nepal International Consumers Union
Bhawani Shanker Kusum
Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS), Jaipur, India
International Fund for Hmong Development
The Gulf Institute
Ann Buwalda, Esq.
Jubilee Campaign USA
International Federation of Social Workers
New Hope Foundation
Foundation for China in the 21st Century
Gibreil I. M. Hamid, President
Darfur Peace and Development Centre, Switzerland
Children of the Earth
Dr. Yael Danieli
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies