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Ambassador Harper Speaks at Symposium on Abductions by North Korea
September 10, 2014

U.S.-Japanese Coordination on North Korean Human Rights: Seeking Resolution of Abductions

Ambassador Harper amongst other individuals
Ambassador Harper Speaks at Symposium on Abductions by North Korea

Remarks by Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council

International Symposium on Abductions by North Korea
Organized by the Japanese Mission to the UN Human Rights Council

September 10, 2014

I appreciate the opportunity to speak today on the issue of enforced disappearances, including abduction of foreign nationals by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).  I appreciate the invitation of the Government of Japan to participate in this symposium.  Thanks especially to Minister Eriko Yamatani for your continued leadership on this vitally important matter.

This past year has been particularly important in calling attention to the brutality of these abductions.  In March 2013, the UN Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK.

The resolution creating the Commission was adopted by consensus of the council membership and was co-sponsored by the United States.  The Commission of Inquiry issued its comprehensive and damning report earlier this spring.  It concluded that:

“Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the DPRK, its institutions and officials.  In many instances, the violations of human rights found by the commission constitute crimes against humanity.”

The report also denounces the DPRK’s “systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons from other countries on a large scale and as a matter of State policy.”  The recommendations and conclusions of the Commission called upon the DPRK government to:

“Provide the families and nations of origin of all persons who have been abducted, or otherwise forcibly disappeared, with full information on their fate and whereabouts, if they have survived; allow those who remain alive, and their descendants, to return immediately to their countries of origin; and in close cooperation with their families and nations of origin, identify and repatriate the physical remains of those who have died.”

The Commission’s report highlighted abductions of numerous foreign nationals, including citizens from the Republic of Korea, Japan, Lebanon, Thailand, China, and Romania.

Let me pause for just a moment to say something about the Commission of Inquiry report on the DPRK.  Simply put, it is a model REPORT that other mandate-holders should hereafter follow.

The Commission members should be commended for an exquisite product.  If a brief, it would be one any litigator would be proud of.  If an indictment sheet, it would be one any prosecutor would envy.

It is dispassionate, evidence-based, cogent, compelling and damning.

No longer can the world say this is conjecture or speculation or politically-motivated accusations from one or another.  The documentation is too well done.  It is too persuasive.

Because of your work, Commissioners, we need no longer argue the facts – we know them.  All that is left is whether the world community will do something about this monstrous regime.

When the initial reports emerged indicating that North Korea had seized Japanese citizens, on Japanese soil, and forcibly taken them to the DPRK, the natural reaction was that these acts were so outrageous as to be almost beyond comprehension.

Now, we know – through incontrovertible evidence – that indeed, the abductions are in fact absolutely true.   And, further, the North Korean government itself has admitted to carrying out at least 13 of these abductions.

The United States has supported and will continue to support the efforts of the Government of Japan to seek the return of its citizens abducted by the DPRK.  We understand the significance and importance of this issue to the Japanese people and we sympathize.  Washington and Tokyo consult frequently on this issue across many levels, and we will continue that cooperation and coordination.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, like Secretary Clinton before him, has met with family members in Japan.  The U.S. Ambassador in Tokyo, Caroline Kennedy, has met with family members. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Ambassador Robert King has met with family members on a number of occasions in Tokyo, Washington, and here in Geneva.  Our continuing resolve to support Japan in seeking the transparent resolution of these abductions could not be stronger.

To the victims and their families, here is the bottom line:  We cannot and will not forget the suffering of these abducted individuals.  We cannot and will not lose sight of the pain and deep anguish of their families.

The Commission’s thorough and extensive report was welcomed in March by the Human Rights Council in a resolution adopted by an overwhelmingly positive vote; those who voted against it did so to their shame.  It called upon North Korea to take the actions recommended by the Commission of Inquiry.

Shortly after that, the Commission’s report was discussed in New York at a special Arria-format meeting of the United Nations Security Council.  The report was welcomed and endorsed by 11 of the 15 members of the Security Council.

I want to mention that Japan played a key role as author of the resolution in the UN Human Rights Council in March of last year that created the Commission of Inquiry.  And Japan again was the author of the resolution adopted by the Council in March of this year that welcomed the Commission of Inquiry’s report and called upon the DPRK to implement its recommendations.

The United States is absolutely committed to working with the Government of Japan and other governments in seeking a resolution to the abductions matter.  We share a strong commitment of respect for human rights and the rule of law.  We will continue to work together seeking justice for the abductees and their long-suffering families.