What's In Blue

Posted Thu 8 Dec 2022

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK): Meeting on the Human Rights Situation under “Any Other Business”

Tomorrow (9 December), following the briefing and closed consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Security Council members will discuss the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) under “any other business”, a standing agenda item in informal consultations. The meeting was requested by Albania and the US. No briefer is expected.

From 2014 to 2017, the Council held an annual meeting on the human rights situation in the DPRK every December. Council meetings on this issue have been contentious, principally because members hold differing views as to whether human rights violations in the DPRK constitute a threat to international peace and security. China has argued that the Security Council is not a forum for discussing human rights issues, that such issues should not be politicised and that discussion of human rights in the DPRK jeopardises the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Russia, together with some elected members, has adopted a similar position.

Other Council members, however, feel that the human rights situation in the DPRK merits Council attention and have sought open meetings on the matter. In December 2017, for example, nine Council members—France, Italy, Japan, Senegal, Sweden, Ukraine, the UK, the US, and Uruguay—requested a meeting on the issue with briefings from senior officials from the UN Secretariat and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Due to divisions among members, every request for an open Council meeting on the agenda item “the situation in the DPRK” has required a procedural vote. (Council resolutions  of a procedural nature need nine affirmative votes to be adopted, and the veto does not apply.) These procedural votes were prompted by objections from China with support from Russia. It appears that the proponents of this meeting could not garner sufficient support to hold an open briefing since 2018. On 24 February, Ireland wrote a letter to the Council on behalf of 30 member states, including Council members Albania, France, Norway, the UK, and the US, which requested that the agenda item “the situation in the DPRK” remain on the list of items with which the Council is seized. (If a formal meeting is not held on an agenda item for three years, that item is subject to deletion; however, if a member state or group of member states requests its retention, that item will remain on the seizure list for a further year, renewable).

Council members last discussed the human rights situation in the DPRK on 15 December 2021, following a request from the US with support from Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, and the UK. The discussion was held under “any other business”.

Council members also discussed the human rights situation in the DPRK under “any other business” on 11 December 2020 at the request of Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, the UK, and the US. These members initially requested an open videoconference (VTC) meeting with a briefing from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. China and Russia opposed having an open meeting, which prompted the members seeking the briefing to request a VTC meeting under “any other business”. (Consensus is not required for a discussion under “any other business”). It appears that members did not request an open briefing this year.

At tomorrow’s meeting, China and Russia are likely to reiterate their position that the Council should not consider the human rights situation in the DPRK. Members who favour Council discussion of the issue, including those who requested the meeting, might condemn the ongoing human rights violations in the DPRK, call for accountability for perpetrators, and urge the DPRK to engage with the international community on its human rights record.

Some Council members may refer to the Secretary-General’s latest report to the General Assembly on the human rights situation in the DPRK (A/77/247), which was issued on 29 July and covers the period from August 2021 to July. Among other matters, the report concludes that the DPRK has further increased its repression of the rights and freedoms of its people. The report describes apparent violations of a range of human rights, and also refers to the challenges of gathering independent and credible information on the human rights situation in the DPRK.

The DPRK has carried out a record number of tests involving cruise or ballistic missiles this year, including an 18 November test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that reportedly travelled 1,000 kilometres and reached an altitude of approximately 6,000 kilometres at Mach 22 speed before landing about 200 kilometres off the coast of Japan.

At a 21 November open briefing on the DPRK, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (United States) announced that the US will pursue a presidential statement on the DPRK’s weapons programmes. At the time of writing, a draft of the proposed presidential statement had not been circulated to all Council members.

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