GENEVA, Dec. 22, 2014 – NGOs hailed the convening today of the first-ever meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korean human rights abuses.
“With today’s historic debate, the UN finally sends the message that North Korean rulers who starve and enslave their own people must be held accountable,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights organization that works closely with North Korean victims.
The debate follows Friday’s historic UN General Assembly resolution which asks the Security Council to refer North Korea’s abuses to the International Criminal Court, and to initiate sanctions against perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
“This is a powerful boost to millions of victims suffering in what many consider the worst situation of human rights abuse on the planet,” said Neuer.
UN Watch has brought numerous North Korean defectors to testify before the UN Human Rights Council, and at the group’s annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights.
Top North Korean defectors also welcomed today’s debate. “The resolution and meeting will have a huge impact in North Korea, as the people there will learn that their leader is a criminal. People will be happy and as a North Korean defector I am also happy,” said Ahn Myeong Cheol, a prominent North Korean defector.
What’s Next: Chinese Veto Can’t Stop Independent Sanctions
Neuer said that an outcome resolution should be introduced following the debate even if it would likely be blocked by a Chinese veto. “Proponents of human rights at the UN should never stay silent in fear of a veto. They should speak out for truth, and fight for justice for North Korea’s victims, and let the spoilers show their true colors.”
“Moreover, after a veto the international community should still take action, such as by identifying and freezing the assets of North Korean regime figures around the world.”
In September, UN Watch organized a letter by 20 North Korean defectors urging Swiss President Didier Burkhalter to freeze Swiss bank accounts held by North Korean regime figures. The appeal and recent Swiss presidential response were reported by CNN, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.
“Countries around the world need to freeze assets of the North Korean regime,” said Ahn, “because it brings more suffering to the people of North Korea while the regime figures enjoy a luxurious life.” Many of the North Korean funds around the world come from illegal activities and exploitation of North Korean laborers outside of the country.
UN Watch and NK Watch, Ahn’s group, pledged to continue to advocate for identifying and freezing North Korean assets, working in coloration with partners around the world.