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The UN Security Council must send an unequivocal message to the North Korean authorities to end the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that continue to be committed in the country, when diplomats meet on Thursday to discuss the situation in the country, Amnesty International said.    

The meeting in New York, marks only the second time the grave human rights situation in North Korea has been discussed at the Security Council.

“The UN Security Council has a chance to show that the world has not forgotten about the victims of crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in North Korea, and that those responsible will face justice,” said Nicole Bjerler, Deputy Representative at Amnesty International’s UN office in New York.

“This meeting should serve as a wake-up call to the North Korean authorities to put an immediate end to the systematic, widespread and grave human rights violations that persist in the country. A starting point would be for them to cooperate with the UN and let independent human rights monitors into the country.”

The meeting on Thursday is a significant step forward in the UN Security Council’s commitment to address the horrific human rights situation in North Korea alongside peace and security.

“Peace and security cannot be separated from respect for human rights, accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims and their families. These issues urgently demands the Security Council’s continued attention,” said Nicole Bjerler.

International pressure on North Korea has been building since the publication of the UN Commission of Inquiry report in February 2014. The damning report documented widespread human rights violations including forced labour, deliberate starvation, executions, torture, rape, infanticide, and up to 120,000 men, women, and children detained incommunicado in North Korea’s political prison camp system – a situation described as “without parallel in the contemporary world”.

Last December, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution which, among other measures, called on the UN Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of referral of the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court. The General Assembly is reiterating its call in this year’s resolution, which was adopted by the Third Committee on 19 November and is to be formally adopted in the Plenary next week.

“The UN Security Council must seize the opportunity today to tell perpetrators of crimes against humanity in North Korea that ultimately they will be held accountable,” said Nicole Bjerler.