UK Government Asked Questions on Genocide and Broadcasting in DPRK

Jim Dobbin MP, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, received written responses to two questions concerning the UK Government’s response to allegations of genocide in the DPRK and UNCOI Recommendation 1224, which calls for states to aid efforts to broadcast information to North Koreans.

Jim Dobbin MP
Jim Dobbin MP

In his first question, Jim Dobbin MP raised the findings of a recent independent legal report commissioned by Human Liberty and documented by Hogan Lovells, which claimed that the DPRK Government may be guilty of genocide through its specific targeting of political, religious and ethnic groups in the country.

Hogan Lovells noted:

“We consider that there may be good arguments that the targeting by DPRK state-controlled officials of groups classified by the DPRK as being in the hostile class, Christians, and children of Chinese heritage with the intent to destroy such groups could be found to amount to genocide,” the report states. It also recommends further investigation of the possibility genocide to include, “collecting as much testimony as possible from victims, refugees and defectors and ensuring that such testimony is collected to a court evidence standard.”

Acknowledging the Hogan Lovells report, Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, did not comment on the report’s findings of possible genocide in the DPRK, but noted that “the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) were unable to establish the crime of genocide on religious grounds, because the available evidence in this respect was ambiguous”.

At a speech made at King’s College London in March 2014, Justice Michael Kirby, Chair of the UNCOI, addressed the debate concerning genocide in the DPRK. Noting the inherent conflict in international law between a workable and widely accepted concept of crimes against humanity and the more expansive and contested concept of genocide, Justice Kirby claimed that whilst Commissioners generally “tended to favour an expansion to a wider category”, crimes against humanity “is already a gold-standard international crime” and the COI’s decision to adopt this concept was based upon its workability and the vast amounts of evidence collected by the Commission.

Responding to the second question posed by Jim Dobbin MP, which asked whether the UK Government supported UNCOI Recommendation 1224 and whether any steps had been taken to aid the work of human rights non-governmental organisations to broadcast accessible information into the DPRK, Hugo Swire MP stated that “The UK does not currently provide financial support to any of the organisations making cross-border broadcasts into the DPRK”.

The Minister went on to note that the UK’s direct engagement with the DPRK Government, such as its English-language teaching programmes for select North Korean students and its culture training courses for DPRK officials, complemented “the efforts of others, like the US, who support broadcasts into North Korea”.


UK Government to Keep UNSC Resolution “under review”

In a written response from Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Minister confirmed that the UK Government will “keep the prospect of a UNSC Resolution under review”, whilst pursuing active dialogue at an upcoming  UN General Assembly session and “a strong DPRK resolution, strongly supported, in the UNGA Third Committee”.

Responding to Lord Alton, who also asked if the UK Government would sponsor a UNSC Resolution “if it appears to face resistance from Russia or China”, Baroness Warsi noted that “The UK believes strongly that there should be no impunity for serious international crimes, such as those which the Commission of Inquiry found are being committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).”

Debate on Recommendation 1225 H and the Formation of a Human Rights Contact Group

Lord Alton, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, received a written response from Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to a question regarding the actions of the UK Government concerning Recommendation 1225 (h) of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry:

Recommendation 1225 (h): States that have historically friendly ties with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, major donors and potential donors, as well as those states already engaged with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the framework of the Six-Party Talks, should form a human rights contact group to raise concerns about the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and to provide support for initiatives to improve the situation.

Responding on behalf of the Government, Baroness Warsi argued “that the UK does not fall into the aforementioned categories” but that “a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office official did meet COI members in April to discuss a range of issues associated with human rights in the DPRK, including the proposal to form a contact group”.

Although the UK was not a member of the Six-Party Talks, the UK has had formal diplomatic relations with the DPRK for nearly fifteen years, is one of only a handful of countries to maintain an embassy in Pyongyang (which was established in 2001) and has recently accredited a non-resident Defence Attaché to Pyongyang and given a DPRK attaché in Moscow similar status.

Further to this long-standing diplomatic relationship, the UK funds multiple projects in the DPRK, organises a number of exchanges for DPRK officials and, according to Hugo Swire MP, has provided a 23.5% share to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund for the DPRK and 15.5% to EU humanitarian support.

Benedict Rogers and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, recently urged the international community to implement the recommendations of the COI, claiming that “It is imperative that the Commission of Inquiry’s report serves as a manifesto for international policy, not simply a harrowing catalogue of horrors or an academic piece of research that gathers dust on a shelf. Truth-telling is an essential part of justice, but it is only a part”.

Fiona Bruce MP Raises Issues of North Korean Labour and Broadcasting with UK Government

Fiona Bruce MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, raised four questions with the the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on matters of concern in the DPRK; namely:

  • What steps the UK has taken to implement the recommendations on supporting the broadcasting of accessible information into the DPRK (UN COI, Rec. 1224).
  • What steps the UK has taken to increase the flow of impartial information into the DPRK following recommendations by the UN COI.
  • If the UK Government will propose legislation that prevents UK companies profiting from North Korean labour; and what steps the UK has taken to ensure that UK companies are compliant with international laws on human trafficking, slavery and forced labour in their contracts with North Korean companies.
  • What discussions the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has had with the UN on the report of the UN COI.

Read the full questions and answers here.


Lord Alton Questions UK Government Action on UNCOI Report

During a Queen’s Speech debate in the House of Lords on the 11th June, Lord Alton, Co-Chair of the APPG NK, questioned the UK Government’s actions concerning the findings laid out in the United Nations Commission of Inquiry.

Lord Alton

Lord Alton commented:

“I have chaired the All-Party Group on North Korea for 10 years. Earlier this year, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Kirby, said of North Korea: ‘The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world’.” 

“If that is so, why have we done nothing so far to ensure that the findings in that commission of inquiry report have been laid before the Security Council?”

Link: House of Lords Debate (Hansard)

Fiona Bruce MP and Benedict Rogers: What to do now about the most closed country in the world

Fiona Bruce MP, Vice Chair of the APPG NK, and Benedict Rogers of Christian Solidarity Worldwide have co-authored an article for on the challenges and options that Britain faces in its attempts to bring reform to the DPRK.

Benedict Rogers & Fiona Bruce MP
Benedict Rogers & Fiona Bruce MP

Listing four key recommendations for government policy – namely, a referral of the DPRK to the International Criminal Court; support for a BBC World Service in the Korean-language; increased engagement with Britain’s North Korean refugee community; and greater normative pressure on the PRC to end its forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees – the authors call for a sustained momentum in the international community and “a much greater sense of urgency…at the very highest levels of government”.

Link: Fiona Bruce and Benedict Rogers: What to do now about the most closed country in the world

APPG NK launches its Twitter and Facebook pages

Information about upcoming events, news of parliamentary questions and debates concerning the DPRK and related points of interest can now also be found on the APPG NK’s new Twitter and Facebook pages.