The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] commission responsible for investigating potential human rights violations in North Korea on Tuesday reported widespread human rights abuses [press release] occurring in the country. The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [official website] was established in March [JURIST report] in response to a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea [official website] urging UN oversight and indicating widespread human rights violations including those of the right to food, pervasive impunity, torture, circumscription of due process, public executions and enforced disappearances. The commission visited Seoul and Tokyo in August, holding public hearings in order to receive testimony from victims and experts regarding these alleged abuses. The testimonies of various individuals pointed to what the commission referred to as "widespread and serious violations" of human rights, including torture, imprisonment, forcible repatriation and sexual violence. Michael Kirby, chairperson of the commission, stated that North Korea had not yet cooperated with the commission, but that the commission planned to pursue alternative means to open an impartial dialogue with the government. North Korea ultimately rejected the commission's findings [Reuters report].
The UN has sought to investigate and counter human rights abuses occurring in North Korea in the past. In February Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman and a group of independent human rights experts announced their support for an international inquiry [JURIST report] into human rights violations in North Korea to bring awareness to the country's system of political prison camps. Also in February Darusman urged the UNHRC and the General Assembly to investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] in North Korea. In November he also expressed concern [JURIST report] over the country's lack of development in human rights, and called on its new leader, Kim Jong-un, to remedy the matter. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned North Korea's human rights record [JURIST report] and urged the international community to make efforts to improve the situation. Pillay's plea came only days after Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the UN [JURIST report] to examine human rights abuses, particularly in light of the decrease in the number of individuals escaping into China and reports by successful escapees of increasing crackdowns on escape attempts.