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North Korea (Human Rights)

Volume 576: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2014

4. What steps he plans to take in support of the recent report of the United Nations commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. (902786)

I welcome the recent United Nations report, which exposes shocking human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and I urge the DPRK authorities to respond to its contents. The United Kingdom is actively supporting a strong UN Human Rights Council resolution on the DPRK. Yesterday I was in Geneva, working to deliver a resolution that makes it clear that there can be no impunity for human rights violators.

As the United Nations has found North Korea to be committing crimes against humanity on a scale unparalleled in the modern world, will the Government refer those responsible to the International Criminal Court and lobby the BBC to broadcast the World Service into North Korea, given the increase in demand for the so-called immoral devices of small radios, the ban on which eased last month? We can no longer say we do not know—it is time to act.

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend’s last comment. On the International Criminal Court, in principle it could be an appropriate forum, although the DPRK has not signed up to it. We strongly agree that there should be no impunity for crimes of this sort, so we need to look at the most effective way of holding the DPRK to account.

On the BBC, my hon. Friend will know that I have been in correspondence with and have attended the all-party group on North Korea to discuss the issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and the noble Lord Alton. We have approached the BBC and are waiting for its detailed response. I must stress, however, that the BBC World Service is operationally, managerially and editorially independent.

Does the Minister think that the UN Security Council will agree to a referral to the International Criminal Court, and have there been any discussions about possible targeted sanctions against those responsible for crimes against humanity?

I remind the hon. Lady that I was in Geneva yesterday for the opening day of the UN Human Rights Council. The commission will formally present its report on 17 March, so these are very early days. The annual resolution led by the European Union and Japan will then be taken at the end of the Human Rights Council and we will work with colleagues there to ensure that we have the best possible mechanism to hold the DPRK to account. Incidentally, I believe that when the curtain is finally lifted on that country, we will see evidence of human rights violations that surpass anything we have seen in any other country in the past 50 years.

Does the Minister agree that the international community’s response to human rights violations in North Korea has been wholly inadequate to date and that we must now challenge that country with the same emphasis placed on security issues?

I do and I congratulate my hon. Friend on all the work she has been doing. She has arranged a briefing by Open Doors this afternoon—I have asked officials to attend it—to highlight the plight of Christians in the DPRK. I also commend—this is not a plug—a book I have just read by the noble Lord Alton called “Building Bridges”, which is the most shocking account of what has been going on in that country.

20. What conversations are the UK Government having with China, specifically about the report’s recommendations on the forced repatriation of North Koreans, which is having a devastating impact on Christians who defect to China? (902804)

We have had discussions with our Chinese opposite numbers on refoulement—that is, the repatriation of those who have escaped from DPRK to China. We had a UK-China strategic dialogue last week and I raised the issue with my opposite number, as did my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary with his opposite number.