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Monday, October 30, 2006

Report: N. Korea Poses Threat To Own People

Citing the new UN doctrine that each state has "a responsibility to protect" its own citizens from the most severe human rights abuses, a report issued today points to egregious violations of rights by North Korea and calls for immediate action by the UN Security Council under a parallel track to the UN's actions over North Korea's nuclear test. UN sanctions levied earlier this month may inadvertently worsen the abysmal human rights situation.

Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea affirms that "the Security Council has independent justification for intervening in North Korea either because of the government's failure in its responsibility to protect or because North Korea is a nontraditional threat to the peace."

The highly detailed report, based on a careful review of available information, was prepared by the law firm DLA Piper US LLP in cooperation with the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Commissioning the report were Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic; Kjell Magne Bondevik, former prime minister of Norway and Professor Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The report can be downloaded from or

Failure to Protect focuses primarily on the active involvement of the government in crimes against humanity through food policy and famine and treatment of political prisoners. The report also describes the way North Korea misallocates its resources through the production of weapons.

"For more than a decade, human rights concerns have been relegated to a second-class status for fear of driving North Korea from the nuclear talks," says Jared Genser, a Washington- based attorney with DLA Piper. "Now that its government has gone ahead with a nuclear test anyway, it is time to have a parallel- track strategy for alleviating the suffering of the North Korea people through Security Council action."'

"The nuclear threat posed by the North Korean government has raised concerns all over the world," adds Debra Liang-Fenton, executive director of the U.S. Committee. "But no less alarming is the active involvement of the North Korean government in committing crimes against humanity. Now, with sanctions, the people may inadvertently suffer more."

"The situation in North Korea is one of the most egregious human rights and humanitarian disasters in the world today," says Havel, Bondevik and Wiesel in a joint statement. "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."

The report recommends the UN Security Council adopt a non- punitive resolution urging the North Korean government to allow open access for international humanitarian organizations to feed its people, calling for the release of political prisoners, as well as insisting that the government allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea to visit the country.


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