Monday, November 17, 2014

North Korea ratifies a new human rights treaty

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) has ratified a new international human rights treaty.  This activity seems in part motivated by the scrutiny they are currently under at the Human Rights Council, the Commission of Inquiry's report, their presence in the Universal Periodic Review process at the Council, and the upcoming resolution vote before the General Assembly.  In any case, regardless of the reason, they recently joined the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which addresses the sale, trafficking and pornography of children.

North Korea signed the treaty on September 9, 2014 and formally ratified it as of November 10, 2014. It now becomes effective one month later, December 10, 2014.  With this ratification, North Korea becomes the 169th party to the Optional Protocol.  By the terms of the Optional Protocol the government must file its first report on compliance within two years, by December 10, 2016.

Optional Protocol's requirements

The Optional Protocol requires that states prohibit the sale, prostitution and pornography of children in their territory and by its citizens and residents.  It sets out specific elements of criminal or penal law that must be addressed to cover the different variants of child abuse in these fields, including sexual exploitation, organ transfer, forced labour, pornography, prostitution, trafficking, and abusive adoption practices.  Article 4 of the Protocol also requires that each state take such measures "as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to ... when committed in its territory or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that state."

North Korea's Treaty record

North Korea is one of the most isolated and disengaged countries in the world, including in its human rights commitments. It has ratified only six of the 17 major international instruments and is chronically behind in filing its reports. Here is a summary of its current treaty reporting record:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) -- ratified in 1981; latest report is 10 years overdue, since 2004
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) -- ratified in 2001; latest report is overdue 8 years, since 2006
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) -- ratified in 1981; latest report is overdue 6 years, since 2008
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) -- ratified in 1990, latest report is overdue 2 years, since 2012
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) -- ratified in 2013, no report is yet due (first report is due in 2015)
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC-OPSC) -- ratified November 2014, first report is due December 2016


It is good to see a country like North Korea ratifying international human rights instruments like the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  However, it would be even better of course if their reporting compliance and actual compliance to these instruments was improving.  Available NGO and UN reports indicate no improvement is occurring. 

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