China has rejected a United Nations report documenting “grave human rights violations” in the North Korea (DPRK) at a UN debate on Monday, saying the report was based on fabricated charges and that its recommendations were “divorced from reality.”
An independent commission of inquiry was established last March by the UN’s Human Rights Council to investigate the “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in the Korean peninsula. The commission was to present its findings to the Human Rights Council today.
Michael Kirby, a former Australian jurist, is the Chair of the Commission. Joined by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Marzuki Darusman, and Sonja Biserko, the commission members were responsible for scrutinising the unrecorded human rights abuses in what is considered the most isolated country in the world and transmitting information to the UN for appropriate action.
The scathing 372-page report, first released on February 17, is now considered the most comprehensive and authoritative body of data ever written on the state of human rights in North Korea. The report singles out the Supreme leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un, as it lays down crimes against humanity committed by government agencies and officials under his direct control.
Such crimes include instances of “extermination,” murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, persecution, the forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearances and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.
While the commission had repeatedly urged the DPRK to cooperate and allow the commission unrestricted access to the country and its citizens, the North Korean government refused the request altogether. In a letter sent to the UN’s President of the Human Rights Council, the DPRK government stated it “totally and categorically rejects the commission of inquiry.”
Due to the lack of access to North Korea, the commission obtained its information and interviews from victims and witnesses residing abroad.
China criticised the report for not containing “first hand information”.
“The inability of the commission to get support and cooperation from the country concerned makes it impossible for the commission to carry out its mandate in an impartial, objective and effective manner,” said Chinese diplomat Chen Chuandong at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“The question then arises, can such an inquiry be truly credible?” she added.
China, which was also criticised in the report for turning back North Korean fugitives, is the DPRK’s main international ally.
The commission had sent a letter to Kim Jong-un earlier in January highlighting the leader’s responsibility under international criminal law and informing him of what it called “Nazi-era-like atrocities” happening under his watch.
But with China being one of only five members to have the veto power at the Security Council, it seems extremely unlikely that Kim Jong-un will be forced to appear before the International Criminal Court.