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U.S. Statement: Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea
September 17, 2013

Interactive Dialogue with the Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK (Mr. Michael KIRBY)

Statement by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council

HRC 24 / September 17, 2013

Mr. President:

The United States commends the Commission of Inquiry, under the exceptional leadership of Justice Michael Kirby, for its excellent initial effort in focusing attention and gathering information on human rights abuses in the DPRK.  The dramatic testimony provided by the witnesses who participated in your public hearings in Tokyo and Seoul was devastating to hear.  The United States reiterates its strong support for the Commission’s mandate, for the work it has accomplished to date, and for its chosen method of inquiry.

The Commission’s initial public hearings in the Republic of Korea and in Japan were an important first step in increasing the public international awareness of the horrific human rights conditions in the DPRK, and they provide a positive beginning.  Witnesses provided moving first-hand accounts that establish a pattern of serious abuses, especially with regard to prison camps, torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and interference with the right to life and freedom of movement.  Other testimonies provide context and insight to these personal testimonies.

Interviews conducted by the COI have focused on how the North Korean government’s choices eliminate personal freedom, deprive the North Korean people of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and institutionalize cruelty and persecution as state functions.

Mr. President:

We welcome the particular attention the Commission is devoting to the issue of accountability, including the degree of responsibility for human rights violations by state institutions and individuals.  We also share the Chairperson’s vow that the final report “will not be just another UN document.”

We regret that some member states, including the DPRK, have not been willing to provide access to the Commission so that it can more effectively and completely conduct its inquiry, and that it has not accepted the invitation of the Commission to participate in the inquiry.  We urge all states to cooperate with the Commission.

Mr. President, we commend the Chairperson and the members of the Commission for their excellent effort, and we look forward to receiving its finding and recommendations in March.