Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 – North Korea

Human Rights Watch has issued its annual report, including its entry on North Korea. HRW does not have entries for Japan or South Korea. Unlike Amnesty International’s annual State of the World’s Human Rights, which solely looks at events that happened during the previous year, HRW’s report gives an overall picture of the human rights situation in the country including events of the past year. In the case of North Korea, the big event in terms of human rights was the release of Commission of Inquiry (COI) report and subsequent lobbying and resolution passing at the UN level – UN Human Rights Council, General Assembly and attempts to get it on the agenda of the UN Security Council.

In many instances, the violations of human rights found by the commission constitute crimes against humanity. These are not mere excesses of the State; they are essential components of a political system that has moved far from the ideals on which it claims to be founded. (CoI Report)

The main topics of the entry, in addition to the COI stuff, are:

    • Torture and Inhumane Treatment – which obviously focuses on treatment of individuals held in political prison camps;
    • Executions, a short blurb about the death penalty in law in North Korea. Information on state use of trials leading to death penalty and execution and prevalence of extra-judicial killings might have been more interesting;
    • Political Prison Camps – with accompanying video of testimony from some of the regulars such as Ahn Myung-Chul and Kang Cheol-Hwan;

  • Freedom of Information – telling about how North Koreans aren’t allowed to access unauthorised sources of news or media;
  • Freedom of Movement, Refugees and Asylum Seekers – including a bit on exploitation and risks for North Korean women living in China
  • Labour Rights – a short piece on how North Korea isn’t a member of the ILO and how crappy labour rights are for North Koreans working at Kaesong
  • International Actors – more on the COI and North Korea’s attempts to deflect attention away from its human rights record

Notably absent was any talk about the food situation in North Korea. I thought we could’ve skipped the out-dated information on Kaeson for perhaps an update on access to health and nutrition for ordinary North Koreans. But overall, a nice summary of the horrendous situation in North Korea.


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January 2015
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