Combining UN pressure on human rights, nukes & missiles, by Roberta Cohen

[CanKor Brain Trust member Roberta Cohen, non-resident senior fellow at Brookings and co-chair of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, conveys to Chris Nelson of the Nelson Report her personal views regarding both optimism and pessimism surrounding Monday’s statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the DPRK. –CanKor]

Roberta CohenRoberta Cohen: It was the first stand alone statement – and a strong one at that – by a High Commissioner on human rights conditions in the DPRK. The statement has a few interesting features:

First, High Commissioner Navi Pillay acknowledged that “the deplorable human rights situation in DPRK…has no parallel anywhere else in the world” and called for greater international attention to the abuses reported by former prisoners with whom she met for the first time in December 2012. This sharply contrasts with the past when High Commissioners failed to meet with defectors and generally qualified their remarks about North Korea in part because the UN could not directly access the prisons or give an independent diagnosis of the situation.

Pillay in fact repeats, “We know so little about these camps and what we do know comes largely from the relatively few refugees who have managed to escape from the country.” Yet, far more than a “few” have escaped and given credible testimony. [CanKor Brain Trust member] David Hawk‘s 200-page report Hidden Gulag, published in 2012 by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, contains the testimony of 60 former prisoners and guards. A lot of the accumulated testimony corroborates other testimony, making it factual and hard to ignore. Moreover, hundreds of the 25,000 North Koreans now in the South were former prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »

The Government of Canada Speaks (Just A Little, For Now)

Han Voice Chair Randall Baran-Chong and MP Barry Devolin

Han Voice Chair Randall Baran-Chong and MP Barry Devolin

Two inter-related events quietly happened this past week.

The first event took place in Ottawa last Thursday, as the inaugural John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award was awarded to the Citizens Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (or “NKHR”). This achievement, the brainchild of an up-and-coming DFAIT staffer, was given by none other than Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon.

The second event took place in Toronto last Saturday. An open forum was co-hosted by HanVoice, the Citizens Alliance, as well as the Toronto Korean consulate at the University of Toronto. As part of the event, several speakers, including Benjamin Yoon (chairman of NKHR), the South Korean consul general, and Member of Parliament Barry Devolin gave some opening remarks. These opening addresses were followed by a short panel discussion by Chris Kim and Sydney Choi of HanVoice, Pam Shime from the Global Advocacy & Leadership Institute, Suk Woo Kim from NKHR, and Ashley Eom from NKHR. The panelists spoke about wide-and-varied topics, including possible private sponsorship and education programs for North Korean refugees, the potential for the issue of children (and especially stateless children) as a possible wedge issue regarding human rights advocacy, food aid, and the rampant sexual trafficking of female North Korean refugees in China. Read the rest of this entry »

Dissenting view of David Hawk’s “Pursuing Peace While Advancing Rights”

Posted by CanKor Brain Trust Member Paul Evans:

It may appear churlish to offer a dissenting view of David Hawk’s informed and thoughtful report, Pursuing Peace While Advancing Rights: The Untried Approach to North Korea,” that is featured in CanKor Report #325 and on this blog. I share his sense of outrage at the state of human rights in North Korea and his commitment to encouraging positive change. I agree that North Korean violence against migrant women and the existence of prison camps (“managed places”) are pivotal issues that should not be ignored. It indeed seems almost certain that full normalization of relations with North Korea by the United States and many other countries (Canada included) will depend upon improvements in human rights in that country. And it is difficult to disagree with his general comment that there has been very little progress in advancing either nuclear and missile disarmament or human rights in the past seventeen years.

But the report makes four mistakes that undermine its prescriptions. Read the rest of this entry »

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