On March 24, the United Nations voted on a resolution that authorized prosecutors to pursue further leads to indict North Korea for numerous human rights violations. The UN Human Rights Council initiative opens a new front against North Korea, applying a form of judicial pressure on the regime in addition to the preexisting economic sanctions imposed by the international community.
Over 47 countries, including the United States, Japan, and several European Union member states, have backed the new resolution, which also calls for North Korea to open its borders to human rights inspectors. Furthermore, the resolution calls for the allocation of more judicial specialists to the UN Human Rights division in Seoul and the compilation of evidence from eyewitness accounts from North Korean defectors.
Human Rights Watch Advocacy Director John Fisher remarked, “The overwhelming support for this resolution shows the resounding commitment of the international community to ensure that Kim Jong-un and North Korea’s rights-abusing authorities don’t escape justice.”
Fisher’s optimism reflects what appears to be a growing international consensus on the need to deal directly with North Korea over human rights violations. Should the resolution succeed in achieving its primary objectives, then international prosecutors will have the appropriate amount of evidence to convict North Korean authorities of human rights violations.
North Korea’s response to the resolution was characterized by criticism and outrage. Mun Jong-chol, a member of North Korea’s UN entourage, denounced the resolution as a “document for interference in internal affairs of sovereign states and represents the culmination of politicization, selectivity, and double standards of human rights.”
Another envoy in the entourage accused the resolution as being part of a conspiracy led by the United States to undermine North Korea, according to Reuters.
According to the New York Times, however, even if the International Criminal Court sought to try North Korean leaders such as Kim Jong-un, such trials would be difficult to carry out due to the diplomatic protection that North Korea receives from China. China has distanced itself from the resolution, but is urging the international community to shift to diplomacy and dialogue rather than tactics of condemnation.