Statement by Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director. Promoting Human Rights in North Korea: Ending Torture and Public Execution

Dear ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests, I would like to first congratulate you on your World Cup victory. Given that you are in the midst of your national celebrations, we very much appreciate your willingness to come to this event, which is dedicated to exposing the horrific and ongoing human rights abuses within North Korea. I would like to thank the Transnational Radical Party for co-sponsoring this event, and particularly Mr. Matteo Meccaci for all his hard work to make this all happen. Freedom House has been pleased to work with TRP and Matteo on a number of issues critical to the strengthening of human rights and freedom around the globe.

As last week’s events reinforced yet again, the world knows only too well of the government of North Korea’s saber rattling. We believe that the world knows too little about what is happening inside of North Korea. The 23 million citizens of that country live under the world’s most repressive regime, according to Freedom House’s annual survey of freedom. Kim Jong Il has constructed a comprehensive system of gulags, detention centers, widespread use of torture and execution, and pervasive monitoring of citizens to maximize his own control and power, and to strip the North Korean people of the essential elements of human dignity.

Freedom House is an independent non-governmental organization, established in 1941, by a diverse, bipartisan group of prominent Americans. Our sole objective is the expansion of freedom in the world. Over the years, Freedom House has worked to bring to light the global state of political rights and civil liberties through our annual comparative surveys, to advocate for a U.S. foreign policy that puts as a priority the expansion of freedom, and to support those who are peacefully working to guarantee essential human freedoms within their own societies.

In the past year, Freedom House has worked with international activists, including many South Korean NGOs and North Korean defectors and their associations, many of whom are here today, to raise the profile of North Korea’s egregious human rights abuses and to encourage action to end those abuses. Last December, Freedom House worked closely with many of you to host the Seoul Summit, a watershed event that brought together international NGO leaders and governmental officials. Since then, a previously reluctant South Korean government and a number of South Korean groups have become more vocal in raising the issue of human rights in North Korea.

But we all need to do more. Freedom House believes that governments and non-governmental actors need to take concerted, coordinated action to do what we can to end the torture, executions, and ongoing repression within North Korea. Those of us who are part of the community of democracies have a duty to make sure that the freedoms we enjoy become a reality for all people, no matter where they live.