PhD student Ben Willis writes Independent article on human rights in North Korea

The article argues that though there have been few signs of improvement in response to the harrowing 2014 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry, the international community is starting to step up.

The recent third annual UN Security Council meeting on North Korean violations of human rights highlighted some of the challenges with a renewed Chinese attempt to block discussion, and with ‘many council members far from united’.

Ben argues that despite ‘no push to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), nor any consideration of targeted sanctions against individual figures in the regime…human rights advocates are keeping up pressure on its members nonetheless’.

Recently, Resolution 2270 and 2321 have adopted language that considered human rights for the first time. Ben expands ‘these subtle changes to the wording of resolutions may seem trivial in the face of such appalling human rights violations, and it’s true that they certainly don’t go so far as to invoke any explicit responsibility to protect people on the part of either the North Korean government or the wider international community.’

The article goes on to discuss the pressure beyond the Security Council by highlighting the UN General Assembly’s non-binding annual resolutions on human rights in North Korean over more than a decade. 

The article is hopeful that this is indicative of change for the better. The article draws to a close with optimism that the international community is beginning to take Pyongyang violations seriously, though it is unlikely the pressure will have a sudden impact on the government.

The government’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities being the latest example of incremental change, which can perhaps lead to us being ‘small steps away from outright denial and towards limited engagement, space for domestic opposition groups will perhaps begin to open up’. 

Read Ben’s article here.