The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported [press release] Monday that sanctions against the People’s Democratic Republic on North Korea have a negative effect on aid efforts.
High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official website] told the UN Security Council that 13 million of the 17 million North Koreans facing food shortages rely on aid provided by the UN. Sanctions on imports and money transfers have disrupted delivery of food aid.
Zeid said the heightened state of military tensions on the peninsula has led to more corruption in state-run aid distribution systems and increased violations of human rights. The high commissioner highlighted increased surveillance for the general population and mistreatment or torture of detainees in prisons and work camps. Some of the commissioner’s information about the wide spread inhumane practices came from interviews with escapees and from the condition of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier who died shortly after being released from North Korea in a vegetative state.
Zeid’s presentation to the Security Council was met with opposition from some council members. Russia, China and Bolivia vetoed the resolution to hear the report, claiming that human rights is under the sole authority of the Human Rights Council. In response, representatives for the other members asserted the role human rights violations play in the Security Council’s mandate to promote peace.