Towards 'Responsibility to Protect'?; North Korean Human Rights after the United Nations Commission of Inquiry

Stream: Panel 14 - International Relations: Non-western States, International Law and the Responsibility to Protect Norm
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


Abstract prepared for submission to the Australian Political Science Conference to be held at UNSW, Sydney, in September 2016 In February 2014, the UN’s Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Commission of Inquiry (CoI) delivered a report which found that North Korea’s human rights practices amounted to crimes against humanity. It invoked the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm to inform its recommendations and, most notably, it called for the UN Security Council to consider referring members of North Korea’s regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution. This paper begins by exploring the question of why the CoI invoked R2P and how this norm shaped the February 2014 report. It then considers the report’s impact. First, it examines its impact on the human rights situation in North Korea, with special attention to the implications of the report being referred to the Security Council and the creation of a UNHRC office in Seoul. Second, the paper considers the report’s impact on R2P itself. It applies a ‘cyclic model’ of norm diffusion which assumes that efforts to apply norms typically result in disputes and argumentation, and the outcome is usually some degree of change in the norm’s scope and content. The paper finds that R2P has indeed been changed by the CoI report’s release: there is now more support for the notion that R2P applies in chronic or ‘non-crisis’ situations, and for the view that referral to the ICC is an appropriate response.


Jawoon Kim (Presenter), N/A

Alan Bloomfield, UNSW Australia