The drama at the UN reached its denouement yesterday with an historic vote on a resolution that refers the Commission of Inquiry report on North Korean human rights to the UN Security Council. The resolution specifically acknowledges the finding of the CoI that crimes against humanity may have been committed in North Korea, (para. 7). It also encourages the UNSC to consider referral of the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court as well as targeted sanctions against those responsible (para 8; the original resolution is here).
The drama came from the fact that Cuba tabled an amendment to the resolution that would have deleted the two offending paragraphs. In addition, it argued for “a new cooperative approach to the consideration of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that will enable: (a) the establishment of dialogues by representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with States and groups of States interested in the issue; (b) the development of technical cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and (c) the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the country.”
Subsequently, Japan and Europe tabled a revised resolution that included additional language welcoming North Korea’s stated willingness to engage in dialogue on human rights, an offer that was in fact quickly retracted (see The End of Charm, Part One and Part Two).
Individuals—and countries—do not vote consistently and this vote was no exception. 40 countries voted “yes” on the Cuban resolution, perhaps because of objections to country-specific resolutions; among the disappointments were India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Thailand. But 111 countries voted “yes” on the Japan-EU resolution, with only 19 voting no. Below, we reproduce the full history of votes on UN North Korea resolutions. The last time a resolution came to a vote was in 2011, and the erosion of support from that vote was small: only 12 fewer yes votes, split between slight increases in no votes and abstentions. The North Korean charm offensive appears to have had little effect. Now the challenges begin. The UNSC is not required to take up the issue as a result of the General Assembly vote. Will it?
Votes on UN North Korea Human Rights Resolutions
60/173 of 16 December 2005. Yes: 88, No: 21, Abstentions: 60, Non-Voting: 22, Total voting membership: 191
61/174 of 19 December 2006. Yes: 99, No: 21, Abstentions: 56, Non-Voting: 16, Total voting membership: 192
62/167 of 18 December 2007. Yes: 101, No: 22, Abstentions: 59, Non-Voting: 10, Total voting membership: 192
63/190 of 18 December 2008. Yes: 94, No: 22, Abstentions: 63, Non-Voting: 13, Total voting membership: 192
64/175 of 18 December 2009. Yes: 99, No: 20, Abstentions: 63, Non-Voting: 10, Total voting membership: 192
65/225 of 21 December 2010. Yes: 106, No: 20, Abstentions: 57, Non-Voting: 9, Total voting membership: 192
66/174 of 19 December 2011. Yes: 123, No: 16, Abstentions: 51, Non-Voting: 3, Total voting membership: 193
67/181 of December 20 2012. Adopted without a vote, 8 disassociate (China, Cuba, DPRK, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, Venezuela).
68/183 of December 18 2013. Adopted without a vote, 7 disassociate (Belarus, China, DPRK, Iran, Russia, Syria, Venezuela).
Vote on Cuban Amendment to A/C.3/69/L.28/Rev.1. November 16, 2014. Yes: 40; No: 77; Abstentions: 50.
Vote on A/C.3/69/L.28/Rev.1. November 16, 2014. Yes: 111; No: 19; Abstentions: 55.
Witness to Transformation Posts on the CoI
Commission of Inquiry Report: the Mandate (March 25, 2013)
Commission of Inquiry Report: Initial Reaction (February 17, 2014; includes full links to Commission materials)
Commission of Inquiry Report: What Next? (February 24, 2014).
Roberta Cohen, Karin Lee and Christine Hong on Human Rights (January 29, 2014)
Commission of Inquiry Roundup I: The UN Role (March 3, 2014)
Commission of Inquiry Roundup II: the UN Role (March 6, 2014)
The Human Rights Council Vote (March 31, 2014)
The Commission of Inquiry: The Arria Meeting (April 21, 2014)
North Korea Admits to Prison Camps--Or Does It? (October 8, 2014)
On the UN politics, October-November 2014: Human Rights Racket: Alive and Kicking (October 10, 2014, on the October 6 letter from the DPRK Permanent Representative); Human Rights Roundup and The North Korean Counter-Resolution (October 20 and 21, 2014); UN Diplomacy Continued, Parts One and Two (October 28 and 29); The End of Charm, Part One and Part Two (November 6 and 7).