The ‘dark abyss’: Michael Kirby discusses human rights and political reality in North Korea

Four months after a UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), former High Court judge Michael Kirby will speak at UNSW about the political and human rights reality in the rogue state.

Mr Kirby chairs the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, which delivered a report in March calling for urgent action on abuses including referral to the International Criminal Court. The 400-page report detailed “unspeakable atrocities” including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence as well as the disappearance of citizens and “the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation”.

Mr Kirby has described North Korea as a “dark abyss” and likened the testimony he heard from some 80 witnesses and victims of the regime to “the great scourges of Nazism, apartheid and the Khmer Rouge”.

“The gravity, scale, duration and nature of the unspeakable atrocities committed in the country reveal a totalitarian state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” he said on delivering his findings.

The UN Human Rights Council issued a resolution condemning “in the strongest terms” the violations documented by Kirby. In response, the DPRK regime “categorically and totally” rejected the inquiry’s findings.

Following the Australian Human Rights Centre (AHRC) address, Professor Martin Krygier –Gordon Samuels Professor of Law and Social Theory and Co-director of the Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law – will offer concluding remarks.

What: “North Korea, International Law and Political Reality” – an address by Michael Kirby, chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK

When: 6–7.30pm Thursday, 31 July

Where: Law Lecture Theatre G04, Law Building, UNSW Kensington campus.


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Media contact: Steve Offner, UNSW Media, 02 9385 1583