Human Rights Abuses in North Korea Addressed at UN Meeting

Human Rights Watch

We thank the Special Rapporteur for her report and for raising awareness of the deep-seated gender inequality in the DPRK.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the North Korean government introduced new extreme and unnecessary measures further restricting basic freedoms, deepening North Korea’s isolation from the rest of the world, and exacerbating the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Measures included shoot-on-sight orders at the border to deny freedom of movement, and severe limitations on importing food and other essential goods.

As UN experts warned at the outset, emergency Covid-19 measures should be “proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory.” Three years on, North Korea has openly disregarded these fundamental principles. The government has used Covid-19 as a guise to justify a return to ultra-strict controls on information, free expression, movement of people, distribution of food and products, and economic activities.

These draconian measures fall hardest on North Korean women, who already experience widespread discrimination and pervasive violence. They are commonly families’ main breadwinners, with men forced to work state-assigned jobs and barely paid. These prolonged Covid-19 measures curb women’s participation in the economy and restrict their access to food and essential goods.

Given the gravity of the violations, combined with the government’s refusal to meaningfully cooperate with UN human rights bodies, renewed attention from UN member countries and support for accountability and exploration of new avenues for justice are imperative. The Council should support the resolution on the DPRK to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and strengthen accountability pathways for rights abuses in North Korea.

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