Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Legal

Living History with Sonja Biserko

The Process of Documenting Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea

The Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2013. The commission was tasked with investigating North Korea’s systematic, widespread, and grave human rights abuses.

The Commission’s investigation covered a wide range of human rights violations including torture, rape, murder, enslavement, discrimination, imprisonment and arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and other forms of inhumane treatment. Based on its investigation, the COI determined that crimes against humanity have been and are still being perpetrated in North Korea and that accountability should be pursued for those crimes. The final report of the commission which included these findings and final recommendations that addressed issues of accountability was released in February 2014.

The most valuable part of this report is that it somehow contributed to wide international recognition of the situation in North Korea and it was a breakthrough in many ways.

In this oral history, Ms. Sonja Biserko, one of three commissioners of the COI and a founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, discusses her experience in gathering evidence and writing the COI Report; the legacy of the commission activities; and her perspective on the future of human rights in North Korea.

In an earlier Living History video Justice Michael Kirby, chair of the COI and former justice of the High Court of Australia, describes his perspective on North Korean human rights and the prospects for pursuing accountability for crimes against humanity being perpetrated in the country.

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