Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

230317 - UNSC Arria-formula meeting: The Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea


17 March 2023

Statement by H.E. The Hon Mitch Fifield, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Australian Mission to the United Nations

Thank you, President. I deliver this statement on behalf of CANZ – Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

CANZ thanks Albania and the United States for arranging this meeting on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, about which we remain deeply concerned.

The DPRK Government continues to fail to improve the human rights situation since the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that in many instances, the human rights violations in the DPRK involved crimes against humanity based on state policies.

The UN Secretary-General’s July 2022 report on human rights in the DPRK confirmed the ongoing extensive and systematic use of torture, and the absolute denial of any freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion or belief. 

Last week’s report by the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK noted that discrimination and gender-based violence against women and girls remains widespread and routine.

The DPRK has also imposed extreme measures under the pretext of containing COVID-19 by closing its borders, including shoot-to-kill orders for any unauthorised border crossings.

This has led to a sharp reduction in the freedom of movement, a downturn in essential grass-roots border trade and market activity, and the departure of international NGO staff.

We are alarmed at reports of food insecurity and starvation in some parts of the DPRK.

The DPRK’s current efforts to eradicate foreign content have further restricted how people can speak, communicate, or interact.

The DPRK’s new anti-reactionary ideology and culture law introduced in December 2020 issues harsher penalties.

This includes the death penalty for people caught watching foreign movies, possessing an unregistered foreign mobile phone, or even using South Korean speech.

In the face of such extreme and widespread human rights violations and abuses, it is critical that we support mechanisms to hold the DPRK Government accountable.

CANZ strongly supports the renewal of the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ presence in Seoul, to help the international community monitor and document the human rights situation in the DPRK.

The DPRK’s systemic, widespread, and gross human rights violations are intertwined with the country’s unlawful and destabilising weapons program.

The DPRK’s rapid pace of missile testing since 2022 shows that the Government continues to prioritise weapons development over the welfare of its people - facilitated by its repressive political control over the populace.

The DPRK’s human rights violations bear impact beyond its borders. Its gross misdirection of scarce resources in defiance of UN sanctions raises the risk of a widespread conflict, with drastic consequences for human rights.

We further express our concern over the citizens of the Republic of Korea detained in the DPRK, abductions and enforced disappearances of Japanese and Republic of Korea citizens, and other nationals who are kept against their will in the DPRK, and unrepatriated prisoners of war.

The situation in the DPRK demonstrates that human rights violations can threaten international peace and security.

It is vital that the Council openly address these violations and their implications for peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and beyond.