Today the UN Third Committee adopted a resolution recognizing widespread human rights violations and referring the matter to the Security Council. The resolution will likely go before the General Assembly next month.
Still, many countries voted against the resolution and tried to amend it earlier in the day. The amendment would have stripped the resolution of language referring the matter to the Security Council and also recognizing the Commission of Inquiry (COI). Cuba, China, and Russia led the efforts against the resolution – supported by Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Belarus, and others – claiming that it sets a bad precedent to single out or “name and shame” individual nations and that it goes against the UN Charter to bring this matter to the Security Council. China and Russia are permanent members of the Security Council and any member may veto a matter and block the Council from acting.
Furthermore, these nations stated that the resolution is politically charged, an attempt by hostile nations to violate the national sovereignty of North Korea, and undermines international cooperation. They also focused on the fact that the Commision of Inquiry did not visit North Korea and claimed they did not cooperate with the North in reaching their conclusions. These nations believe the UN Human Rights Commission (HRC) is the proper body to deal with this situation. They support the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a self-reported and peer-reviewed worldwide HRC program on human rights. They claim that the UPR supports international cooperation while maintaining national sovereignty.
Japan pointed out that the Human Rights Commission has recognized the human rights violations in North Korea for 10 years and that the Third Committee has adopted a resolution similar to today’s resolution without vote for the past two years. Many countries, led by Italy, Japan, Switzerland, the United States, and even Albania – a country with a history self-admittedly fraught with human rights violations – rejected the amendment and supported the resolution as written stating that in fact North Korea is the country that has been uncooperative with the Human Rights Commission and the Commission of Inquiry, and that North Korea has only recently made efforts to be cooperative in the months leading up to today’s session.
They and many other nations were encouraged by the North’s recent dialogue and are hopeful that it will continue. However, these countries recognized the grave situation in North Korea and insisted that steps must be taken now to end human rights violations and crimes against humanity that have taken place in the past and that continue today. They further stated that those responsible must be brought to justice, alluding to the provision suggesting that the Security Council might refer this matter to the International Criminal Court.
North Korea, as expected, staunchly opposed the resolution. They claimed that the Commission of Inquiry is full of lies, fabricated testimony, and that the resolution is an effort by hostile nations to eliminate the North Korean government and it’s socialist policies. They stated that the cosponsors of the bill were simply bowing to pressure from the United States and that the North will continue to pursue nuclear weapons and take action to protect itself. They claimed that those nations supporting the resolution should be held responsible for any consequences. After the vote, they responded negatively and threatened to end dialogue with European Union and other hostile nations. They reiterated that they will continue to pursue nuclear weapons and will protect themselves by any means necessary.
The General Assembly is expected to take up the resolution and approve it without much difficulty sometime in December.