Protecting the people of North Korea

WHILE the focus in recent weeks has been on North Korea’s nuclear test, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the government there is also responsible for one of the most egregious human-rights and humanitarian disasters in the world today. For more than a decade, many in the international community have argued that to focus on the suffering of the North Korean people would risk driving the country away from discussions over its nuclear program. But with his recent actions, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, has shown that this approach neither stopped the development of his nuclear program nor helped North Koreans. It is time, therefore, for a renewed international effort to ameliorate the crisis facing the country’s citizens. And with the unanimous adoption by the United Nations Security Council of the doctrine that each state has a responsibility to protect its own citizens from the most egregious of human-rights abuses, a new instrument for diplomacy has emerged. States will retain sovereignty over their own territory, but if they should fail to protect their own citizens from severe human-rights abuses, the international community now has an obligation to intervene through regional bodies and the United Nations, up to and including the Security Council.

more from Vaclav Havel et al. here.