- 연구원소식 - JPI PeaceTalk
JPI PeaceTalk
Subject Limits, Potential and Conditions for the Promotion of Human Rights in North Korea
Author JPI  (admin)
  20170912_114320.jpg  (23KByte)
2017-09-13 오전 9:06:52


Justice Kirby discusses Limits, Potential and Conditions
for the Promotion of Human Rights in North Korea



I am Michael Kirby and I was the Chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea. Before that, I was a judge of the High Court of Australia, which is the highest constitutional and legal court of Australia. So that is where I am coming from. And I, with my colleagues, produced a report setting out the truth of the human rights violations in North Korea.




Q1. Under your chairmanship, the UN’s Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea published a report detailing human rights abused committed by the country’s leadership against its own people. Your commission was denied entry into North Korea. How did you still manage to conduct a detailed inquiry?


It was not difficult for us to conduct the inquiry. Of course, it would have been better if we could have gone into North Korea and gone to the places that were the subjects of the accusations. But, in South Korea, there are more than thirty thousand escapees, sometimes called “defectors”, who have come to this country to escape the regime in North Korea. We advertised the setting up of the inquiry by the Human Rights Council. We were very quickly overwhelmed by people who wanted to come and give their testimony. And, in the end, we had to cut off the testimony because there was just so much and we had already covered the nine points in our mandate. So, it was not difficult in this case for us to get plenty of evidence, and the evidence pointed generally in the one direction: that of very serious human rights abuses and some of them rising to the level of crimes against humanity.



Q2. What were some of the most serious human rights abuses that your commission found?


The abuses included abuses in terms of freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, freedom of religious belief, freedom to move inside and outside North Korea, the abduction of people, abduction of North Korean nationals, the retention of prisoners of war contrary to the agreement of the Armistice, and also the abduction of foreign nationals, including significant numbers of nationals of Japan. The terrible wrongs during the famine of the 1990s and the deprivation of food supplies, at the very time North Korea was building up its nuclear capability, was very distressing. The large numbers of people who were confined to detention camps, generally with other members of their family other than the person who was accused. It was the practice, and still is the practice as we understand it, to incarcerate in detention camps those who are regarded as enemies to the regime, plus their parents, plus their children, in order to remove them from society. So that is just a thumbnail sketch, there are many other terrible wrongs and all of them are set out in the report of the COI.



Q3. What did the United Nations do to stop the human rights abuses in North Korea?


The first thing that has to be done is to talk about it and to examine the report of the COI. We were addressed at the Jeju Forum by Al Gore and he made a wonderful address about what he described in his book as the “inconvenient truth” of climate change. There is a second inconvenient truth at the Jeju Forum, and it is the inconvenient truth that is contained in the Commission of Inquiry. [Lifting up the COI Report] This is the Commission of Inquiry Report, and you cannot establish peace and security on the Korean Peninsula without addressing the inconvenient truth of the terrible wrongs that have been found against North Korea, without giving accountability to the people who have been the subject of those wrongs before the international community. So, there are two inconvenient truths at Jeju. One of them is the inconvenient truth of climate change, and the other is the inconvenient truth of human rights abuses in North Korea, crimes against humanity at the very time of the development of very serious weapons of mass destruction by that country.



Q4. How did North Korea respond?


North Korea was given every opportunity to engage with us. We asked to call on their ambassador in Geneva. We made arrangements for them to have access to the tribunal. When we conducted the investigation in public, we gave them the facility of having a representative to speak for them, to ask questions of the witnesses. And when we had completed our inquiry, we sent a copy of the report, before we delivered it to the United Nations, to the Supreme Leader, giving him an opportunity to correct anything that he said was a factual mistake or anything on which he wanted to express a different point of view.


So we observed due process, but their strategy was to have no connection with us, to pull down the blind, shut the door, and pull up the drawbridge and have no connection with the Commission of Inquiry. I think that strategy led the United Nations - in the Human Rights Council, in the General Assembly, and, eventually, even in the Security Council - to vote very strongly in favor of the report of the Commission and to insist that there be accountability for the crimes of North Korea.




Q5. North Korea also poses a grave nuclear threat to the world and everyone seems to be more concerned about North Korean nuclear weapons than about North Korea's human rights violations. Can we deal with North Korea’s nuclear threat and its human rights violations at the same time? If not, how should we prioritize?


We certainly can, and we must deal with them at the same time. We cannot sweep the serious findings of the Commission of Inquiry under the carpet and hope that they will go away and ignore the obligation that is imposed by international law. Where you have crimes against humanity, they are crimes of great significance that demand accountability. So far as I know, the United Nations has never traded off responding to crimes against humanity without securing some appropriate arrangement for accountability for those crimes. Not only can we deal with the two issues - peace and security and human rights - at the same time, but we must deal with them at the same time. Because if we simply push the human rights issues to one side, there will be no stability, there will be no way that we can avoid the obligation in the long term. And therefore, it has to part of any package that is made for the settlement of the differences that is made between North Korea and the rest of the world.



Q6. You will deliver a keynote speech at the North Korea’s human rights session at the Jeju Forum. Why do you think it is important to discuss human rights abuses in North Korea at this venue and at this time?


I have been very impressed by the Jeju Forum, and I have been very impressed by the subtlety and sophistication of the audience and of the speakers, and very impressed by the opening special address by former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. But he brought the message of the inconvenient truth of climate change and I will be bringing the message of the inconvenient truth of human rights in North Korea. Just as in the case of climate change, we ultimately faced up to the inconvenient truth. That was “inconvenient” in the sense that it was sometimes seen as threatening to jobs of people, and threatening to political positions, and even to political candidates. But we have had to face up to it because there is no way that we can ignore those serious problems, for human rights and for peace and stability in the world, as Mr. Gore pointed out. But likewise, there will be no peace and stability in North Korea until we deal with the human rights violations in that country.


The motto of the Jeju Forum is, “Peace and Prosperity.” Now, peace is not only the absence of war, it is the feeling of tranquility and the ability of human beings to live peacefully and calmly with one another, not under the daily threat of terror at home or weapons of mass destruction abroad. Peace cannot be secured, nor prosperity, unless we address the issues of human rights in North Korea. That is the message I am bringing to the Jeju Forum and I hope people will listen to me just as they listened to Al Gore. I don’t think I will get a Nobel Prize for it [laughter] but I still think it is just as important as the issues of climate change.



Q7. What are the major issues for the North Korean human rights session? Can you tell us briefly about your keynote speech?


The main issues I am going to deal with are the issues of lack of freedom of expression and freedom of access to information. In North Korea, amazingly, ordinary citizens do not have access to the internet. They have access to an intranet, but they don’t have access to all the information and the opinions and views that exist in the world, including about them and about the Supreme Leader. That is why in the admirable decision of President Moon Jae-in to reach out to engage with North Korean people, which the Commission of Inquiry of the United Nations also supported in its report, it will be important to do that in addressing also the issue of human rights.


And today at Jeju, in his recorded message, President Moon was the only one of the speakers who actually spoke of human rights. He spoke of his own history as a human rights lawyer and he indicated his commitment to work for the human rights of the people of North Korea, and I was very reassured by that statement. As a human rights lawyer myself - in my earlier days before I was appointed a judge - I know that when you work in human rights, you hear human stories and you hear human injustices, and they are very touching to you and very affecting to you and you commit yourself, in your mind and in your heart, to ensuring that we will develop a world and develop nations that are respectful of human rights and give due protection for them.



Q8. What is your assessment of the South Korean government’s efforts to deal with North Korea’s human rights abuses?


I think the Korean government under President Park and earlier presidents, and also under President Moon, will be very dedicated to trying to address the issues of human rights in North Korea. I don’t pretend that it is an easy task, but every Korean leader that I have spoken to has told me how deeply they feel about the division of their country. It must never be forgotten by foreigners that this was a division that was never decided by the Korean people. They did not decide to divide the peninsula it was imposed upon them by foreign leaders as the Second World War was coming to a conclusion. It is still an imposed and unnatural division and it is a division which is deeply against the interests of the people of Korea. A point was made today, that if only the railway line could be opened up from Busan through North Korea and into China that would lead to enormous economic advantages not only to South Korea but also to North Korea. I hope that I will survive long enough to see a leader of North Korea rejoicing happily and embracing his top officials not at the development of weapons that can cause millions of people to die, but at the development of a railway line and new industries and economic advantages and prosperity that will be to the advantage of the people of North Korea, and the people of South Korea, and to the advantage of the whole world, instead of threatening the planet with terribly dangerous weapons.



Q9. Can you briefly explain the potential role played by the new South Korean administration to deal with North Korea’s human rights abuses?


Since I arrived in South Korea on the 29th of May, that is a question I have been repeatedly asked, “What is the new administration going to do?” Well, I can’t answer that. That is something that is going to be answered in due course when the president’s ministry is set up and ministers are in place and the decisions are made. But President Moon has made it clear that he wants to reach out to North Korea. It is a fact that, in the COI report, reaching out to North Korea and establishing person-to-person contacts was an important part of the strategy which the Commission of Inquiry recommended. We did not recommend cutting off North Korea and having no discussions or contact with them. We recommended a stepping up of the person-to-person contacts, the professional contacts - the contacts between museums, the contacts between dentists, contacts of a professional kind. This is what happened in the case of the division of Germany, when Willy Brandt became the chancellor in 1970. I would not be surprised if there will be steps in that direction and that will be helpful. But they have to come with the development of responses to the demand for accountability for the gravest crimes of North Korea, which are the crimes against humanity. That is what the world promised in 1945 and that is what I believe the world will ultimately wish to deliver.



Q10. Any last words to our Jeju Tube viewers?


My last words on the Jeju Forum is that it is an amazing and extremely valuable engagement of top minds, top experts, but also ordinary citizens. It is very important in the issues that I am concerned with, and Mr. Gore is concerned with - climate change, human rights - that we do not let the experts ever get too distant from the ordinary people. Because ordinary people know what are the really important issues for them, their families, their children, their workmates and their community. And those ordinary issues include climate change, they certainly include the risks of nuclear weapons, and they undoubtedly include universal human rights.