GENEVA, September 19, 2014 – When the UN rights council this morning debates North Korea’s record, a human rights NGO will take the floor to present an open letter sent today by 20 North Korean defectors to Swiss president Didier Burkhalter calling to freeze the regime’s bank accounts held in the country.
“The international community must show that it truly cares for the suffering people of North Korea with deeds—not just words,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group that will present the letter in an intervention during today’s Universal Periodic Review debate on North Korea.
“As a Swiss NGO, we begin by asking our own country to show moral leadership. To its credit, Switzerland sponsored the UNHRC resolution that created an excellent commission of inquiry, and the UNHRC resolution that specifically called for ‘effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity.'”
“To that end,” said Neuer, “we now invite Switzerland to match its words with deeds by listening to 20 survivors of the most horrific North Korean atrocities.”
“The survivors cite the findings of the commission of inquiry, the UN resolutions sponsored by Switzerland itself, international law, as well as Swiss law and precedent, all of which support the legal and moral case for this vital remedy.”
19 September 2014
Open Letter to the President of the Swiss Confederation
to Freeze Assets of North Korean Leadership in Switzerland
We have experienced and witnessed the gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights committed by the North Korean regime against its own people, which has been ongoing for many decades.
Because of these atrocities, and for the reasons outlined below, we appeal to you to place an immediate freeze on the financial assets located in your country, Switzerland, held by the North Korean leadership, who are directly responsible for the crimes against their own people.
We make this request based on the following:
(a) Findings of UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea
As you know, the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea’s human rights record found “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades.”
These crimes entail “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”
The UN further found that North Korea “displays many attributes of a totalitarian State: the rule of a single party, led by a single person, is based on an elaborate guiding ideology.”
Consequently, the UN has found that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un bears primary responsibility for these human rights violations. The commission of inquiry reported multiple indications of central government accountability.
(b) Switzerland endorsed creation and findings of UN Commission
Switzerland has a moral responsibility to act on the findings of the commission of inquiry because it played a leading role in its establishment and endorsement. As a member of the Human Rights Council for 2013, Switzerland actively supported the resolution that created the commission of inquiry (A/HRC/RES/22/13) and, moreover, Switzerland was a sponsor of the Council resolution (A/HRC/RES/25/25) which formally adopted the commission’s report on 28 March 2014.
Please note that Resolution 25/25 called on the General Assembly to request the Security Council to consider action to hold to account those responsible for human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The UN resolution specifically calls for consideration of “effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity.”
Switzerland has no legal or moral reason to wait before proceeding with these vital targeted sanctions. It is incumbent upon Switzerland to match its calls for action in the Human Rights Council by taking action in its own capacity, echoing the grave concerns that have been expressed and affirmed by multiple UN bodies.
(c) Swiss law and prior precedents support case for freezing North Korean assets
Switzerland has every basis in law and prior precedent to act for the people of North Korea. We recall that, acting on these laws, Switzerland in recent years has frozen the assets of several foreign leaders, including Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
Switzerland did so in accordance with Swiss laws: the Embargos Act (2002), and the Act on the Restitution of Illicit Assets (RIAA/LRAI 2011). Moreover, in 2014, Switzerland adopted a new law on the issue, theFederal Act on the Freezing and Restitution of Illicitly Acquired Assets of Foreign Politically Exposed Persons, which only underscores the government’s commitment to address this important issue.
In conclusion, based on international law and Swiss domestic law, prior Swiss precedents, and the basic principles of morality and humanity, we respectfully urge Switzerland to immediately freeze all assets of the North Korean leadership, whether held in their names or those of their associates, that are located within its territory.
Kang Cheol Hwan
Because his grandfather was falsely charged with treason against the nation, all his family members were sent to Camp 15, as guilt by association.
Shin Dong Hyuk
He was born in Camp 14 and witnessed his mother and brother’s public execution. While he was imprisoned in Camp 14, he was subjected to many types of torture.
Ahn Myeong Chul
Because his father committed suicide, his family was sent to a political prison camp, as guilt by association.
Jeong Kwang Il
He was falsely charged with espionage and taken to Camp 15. In Camp 15, he received horrible torture such as pigeon torture, beating, and starvation.
Kim Young Soon
She and all her family members were taken to Camp 15 just because she was a friend of Kim Jong Il’s wife.
Lim Jeong Soo
His father was a prisoner of war, so all his family members were taken to a political prison camp. His father died in a camp from extreme torture. His mother and two brothers died in a camp because of starvation. Also, agents seared his belly with a hot iron. He lived in a camp for 22 years.
Lee Keum Ran
She escaped from North Korea but was caught in China and repatriated to North Korea. After repatriation, she was detained in Camp 15 and witnessed horrible torture committed to other detainees such as forced abortion, beating and so on. She also received horrible torture.
Kim Eun Cheol
He was detained in Camp 15 just because he escaped from North Korea. In Camp 15, he received torture such as beating and starvation. He also witnessed public executions of other prisoners.
Lee Soon Shil
She was repatriated to North Korea from China 9 times and received horrible torture in a labor training camp. Agents seared her body with a hot iron and beat her. Her daughter was trafficked in China.
Kim Tae Jin
He escaped from North Korea but was repatriated to North Korea from China. Then he was detained in Camp 15 and received torture such as beating and forced to sit all day without any movement.
Kim Dong Ram
His son was taken to a political prison camp without any trial just because he escaped from North Korea and interacted with Christianity.
Kim Kwang Hwi
Her family was related to Kim Il Sung’s second wife, Kim Sung Ae. During the 1970s, her family was politically purged and sent to a political prison camp.
Kim Hye Sook
She was taken to a political prison camp when she was only 13 because of guilt by association.
Park Soon Hee
Her co-worker’s family escaped from North Korea, but North Korean agents kidnapped them in China and brought them back to North Korea. They were later sent to a political prison camp just because they escaped from North Korea.
Jeong Hee Soon
She and her daughter escaped from North Korea to earn money in China. In China, her daughter wanted to go to South Korea, but on the way to South Korea, her daughter was caught by the Chinese police and repatriated to North Korea. Later, her daughter was taken to a political prison camp.
Kim Mi Hee
Her family was falsely charged with breaking the statue of Kim Il Sung and taken to a political prison camp. Almost 90 people who were related to her family were also taken to a political prison camp under false charges.
Kwon Young Hee
Her brother escaped from North Korea to earn money in China. However, that time was the national mourning period of Kim Il Sung’s death, so when he was arrested in China and repatriated to North Korea, he was sent to a political prison camp and treated more severely because he escaped from North Korea during the mourning period of Kim Il Sung’s death.
Shin Hye Sook
Her husband frequently crossed a river between North Korea and China to meet his sister in China. However, someone in her town reported him to the National Security Agency, and he was taken to a political prison camp. Also, Shin Hye Sook was forcibly divorced from her husband by the NSA.
Ji Seong Ho
His arm and leg were amputated because of a train accident in North Korea. Because of starvation, he escaped from North Korea but was repatriated to North Korea and received horrible torture. Since he had a physical disability, he was treated more severely than other prisoners in North Korea.
Ji Hyeon Ah
She escaped from North Korea and was repatriated back three times. While she was investigated in the National Security Agency, she received horrible human rights violations and was subjected to forced abortion without anesthesia. Also, when she was detained in a labor detention facility, she witnessed forced abortion and infanticide of other prisoners and prisoners’ babies.