LAST Tuesday (November 18) the United Nations General Assembly decisively approved a groundbreaking resolution not just condemning the North Korean government for human rights abuses but also recommending the prosecution of its officials for crimes against humanity.
The resolution passed by a 111-to-19 vote, with 55 abstentions. The Philippines voted for the resolution.
For a long time it was not certain the UN General Assembly resolution would be as strong as this. As usual, North Korea’s friends, including Russia and China (which has of late been showing exasperation toward its virtual protectorate), have lobbied for a weaker resolution.
In committee, approval of the resolution came only after the members finally defeated a Cuba-authored amendment that would have watered down the resolution by deleting the provision citing the accountability of Pyongyang’s leaders and recommending that they be charged at the International Criminal Court.
Cuba is an ally of North Korea. It described the accountability provision as a concoction of North Korea’s enemies that would set a dangerous precedent. Indeed it would because leaders of other states—including the Philippines–whose human rights records are deplorable could be similarly charged at the ICC.
As expected the outraged North Korean representative attacked the resolution as another insidious move of its enemies to destabilize his country. Foremost of these enemies is of course the United States, the European Union and Japan. The EU and Japan authored the resolution. It is co-sponsored by 62 other countries.
The North’s representative, Choe Myong-nam, said that because his country had been treated badly it might conduct more nuclear weapons tests in response. This means North Korea would defy the appeals of the Western Powers and China to stop developing nuclear weapons. Talks had been progressing on this. In exchange for Pyongyang’s restraint economic sanctions against the North would be reduced and finally lifted. Substantial aid would be poured to help the impoverished people in that country.
Presented at the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which tackles human rights issues, the resolution is the logical result of the frank and harsh report on the North Korean regime’s crimes against its own people produced in February by a UN panel of experts.
General Assembly passage of the resolution, however, does not mean North Korea’s government and its leaders will be charged at the International Criminal Court. Only the UN Security Council is authorized to send cases to the ICC. But China and Russia, patrons and protectors of North Korea, both have veto power on Security Council decisions, as does every Council member.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd can be sure that—now and in the next two years at least—he and his administration officials will not be the subject of a resolution like this one. This is because he is one of President Barack Obama’s “key men in Asia” and the leaders of the most powerful EU countries and Japan toast him, either in ignorance or in mendacity, as a great man of virtue and a reformer.
Yet, the accusation of human rights abuses against him and his officials raised by such groups as Karapatan, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the families of the victims of the Hacienda Luisita and the Ampatuan Massacres, among others, are well-founded and just.
International Human Rights monitors, including those of the United Nations, have assessed the Aquino Regime’s record negatively.
Years from now, when he is no longer president, he can still be made to account for these crimes.