Robert Buckland MP hosts delegation to discuss human rights abuses in North Korea

12 June 2012

In his capacity as Chair of the Conservative Human Rights Commission, Robert Buckland MP today hosted a briefing for MPs about the state of human rights in North Korea.  Members of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) attended the event, which was held in the House of Commons, to inform MPs on their work and how the United Kingdom is in a position to help.

“I was truly honoured to host members of the ICNK today in Parliament.  They are working for a hugely worthwhile cause and I wish to lend them every possible hand that I am able to.  I will continue to work with the ICNK and other human rights groups to try and secure a brighter future for the people of North Korea.”

On the panel were:

  • Jared Genser, pro bono Counsel to the ICNK and a leading human rights lawyer, who has submitted an application to the UN asking for a UN Special Procedures Investigation into North Korea’s human rights crisis, as a first step towards a Commission of Inquiry.

  • Kang Chol-hwan, who spent 10 years in a political prison camp with members of his family before defecting to South Korea in 1992.  Mr Kang is author of the internationally acclaimed ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang’ which lifts the lid on the brutal treatment of suspected dissidents and details the lengths gone to to ‘re-educate’ those it dislikes.  Mr Kang was the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in the gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea.

  • David Hawk, author of a major report called ‘The Hidden Gulag’ which details how the North Korean state is contravening the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and uses high definition satellite imagery to reveal the locations and structures of some of the country’s prison camps.

All three panellists have unparalleled knowledge about the human rights record of the North Korean state and gave MPs the benefit of their insight and expertise.  The meeting discussed at length how the ICNK plans to put pressure on the North Korean Government and how it hopes to bring about an improvement in human rights with the hard-line communist state.  A lot of discussion was focused on the gulag system, in which it is believed there are about 200,000 detainees in 6 camps, including many incarcerated for crimes of family members.  This practice of ‘guilty by association’ is designed to give the Government maximum control over the population and is one of the most blatant and visible abuses of human rights that occurs on a daily basis in North Korea.

The briefing gave MPs a chance to hear first-hand about the struggle for democracy and human rights in North Korea, the appalling treatment of suspected dissidents and how Governments across the world are in a position to help in that fight.