Human Rights Watch has issued its annual report on the human rights situation in some selected countries. As usual, North Korea is one of the countries worthy of attention for its abysmal human rights record. Like last year’s entry there is more about civil and political rights than economic, social and cultural rights – that’s not necessarily a criticism as much as an observation.
The introduction section gives us a run-down of events at the UN, including the Commission of Inquiry report and developments in the Security Council, Human Rights Council (HRC) and the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Key developments are the recommendations by the HRC and the UNGA that North Korea be referred to the International Criminal Court and the opening of the UN Office in Seoul dedicated to documenting human rights violations in North Korea.
The report then focuses on six topics:
- Freedom of movement – Kim Jong-un’s increased measures to prevent people leaving North Korea and China continues to send people back. Women are at risk of forced marriage and trafficking.
- Freedom of Information – the risks of accessing information or using technology to communicate with the outside world
- Labour Rights – North Korea refuses to join the International Labour Organisation and there are sub-par labour standards in Kaesong Industrial Complex
- Political Prisoner Camps – they still exist and they are still awful places where lots of people suffer and die
- Forced Labour – even if you aren’t in a political prison camp doesn’t mean you are free from the risk of punishment through forced labour
- Key International Actors – very brief mention of issues/events with the UN (already discussed), Japan (abductees), South Korea (family reunions) and US (sanctions and the Sony hacking case)
This is all very similar to last year’s entry. Last year’s entry had headings on torture and inhumane treatment and executions which are not in this year’s report. This year adds the new heading of forced labour. Updates of what has been happening at the UN level are new but the information about human rights violations is all familiar stuff. I’m a bit disappointed that there is no video to go along with this year’s entry.