This posting is part of the North Korea Revealedblogging series, published in the context of efforts to establish a Commission of Inquiry at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council (February 25 – March 22). Join the conversation through #NKRevealed.
With overwhelming support from member states, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the deplorable human rights conditions in North Korea. Today’s development should be considered a milestone for international justice. While an independent investigation will not yield the ultimate impact we want—the much-needed closure of the political prison camps—it represents a crucial first step in uncovering the widespread and systematic nature of the crimes, and could ultimately lead to holding the perpetrators accountable. As an immediate impact, the commission has the potential to pressure North Korean officials to end their outright denial of the existence of the camps. We heavily campaigned for this outcome over the last few months – by putting the vast network of political prison camps on the map, uncovering a new security zone next to the infamous Camp 14, and most importantly, by sharing the powerful stories of survivors of the forgotten prisons, with the world.
All people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, enjoy the full range of human rights, without exception. But all too often across the globe LGBT people are targets of discrimination and horrific acts of violence.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity continually leads to abuse in the form of violence, imprisonment, torture, or even execution. These methods of persecution, which include criminalization in many places, violate the human rights of LGBT people.
The Iranian government has repeatedly insisted that it cooperates with the international human rights community and abides by internationally recognized human rights instruments and agreements. However, these assertions are belied by Iran’s dismal performance at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on February 15 and 17. The Iranian delegation incredibly denied its government’s egregious human rights violations, asserting that any criticisms of Iran’s human rights record were merely politically motivated and deliberate mischaracterizations of its efforts to protect its people from “terrorism.” The Iranian delegation also rejected important recommendations made by the UNHRC which were intended to address the deplorable human rights situation in Iran.
At the UPR on Monday February 15, Iran was urged to fulfill many of the recommendations that Amnesty International had been promoting—such as to end execution of juvenile offenders, torture of detainees and the arrest of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly—including peaceful protesters, journalists and women’s rights activists. The response of the Iranian delegation—led by Mohammad Javad Larijani the director of Iran’s Human Rights Headquarters—was essentially complete denial. They maintained, for instance, that all of those arrested and sentenced for their involvement—alleged or real—in the post-election protests were actually guilty of terrorism, espionage and endangering national security.
The world has watched in horror as theunrelenting violence in Iran continues to unfold several months after the disputed June 12 presidential elections. Now the international community has a tremendous opportunity to send a clear message to Iranian authorities that the massive human rights violations they have perpetrated are simply unacceptable.
This opportunity is the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran by the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) next month. Under this process, the human rights records of all member nations of the U.N. are reviewed, on a staggered schedule, every four years. There are three sessions per year, with sixteen countries reviewed per session. This process replaces the previous Commission on Human Rights, which could decide which countries to consider, whereas in the new process, all U.N. member states are automatically reviewed. This new procedure is intended to eliminate the possibility of deciding to review certain countries for political reasons and to address the criticism of double standards which were made against the Commission.
The purpose of the UPR process is to improve the situation of human rights situation in the country reviewed; to enhance the fulfillment of each state of its human rights obligations and commitments; to share best practice in the promotion and protection of human rights among States; and to strengthen the cooperation by States with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.
The outcome of the UPR process will be a report approved by the HRC, and which will include recommendations for addressing compliance with human rights obligations. Amnesty International’s goal is to insure that the resulting report and recommendations are as strong as possible. The Iranian government has persistently claimed that countries with which it has historically had hostile relations, such as the United States and United Kingdom, have been orchestrating criticism of its human rights record for political purposes. A strong report endorsed by the entire HRC would be a rebuke to the Iranian government and a signal that the international community as a whole abhors its deplorable human rights abuses.