UN Watch and 20 North Korean survivors urge Swiss to freeze regime’s bank accounts
GENEVA, Switzerland, October 6 – UN Watch took the floor in the recent session of the UN Human Rights Council to present a letter by 20 North Korean defectors calling on the Swiss government to freeze all of the regime’s bank accounts held in Switzerland.
The UN Watch campaign, coordinated in partnership with Free the North Korean Gulag, received important media coverage. (See right.)
Open Letter to the President of the Swiss Confederation to Freeze Assets of North Korean Leadership in Switzerland
We have experienced and witnessed the gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights committed by the North Korean regime against its own people, which has been ongoing for many decades.
Because of these atrocities, and for the reasons outlined below, we appeal to you to place an immediate freeze on the financial assets located in your country, Switzerland, held by the North Korean leadership, who are directly responsible for the crimes against their own people.
We make this request based on the following:
(a) Findings of UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea
As you know, the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea’s human rights record found “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades.”
These crimes entail “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”
The UN further found that North Korea “displays many attributes of a totalitarian State: the rule of a single party, led by a single person, is based on an elaborate guiding ideology.”
Consequently, the UN has found that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un bears primary responsibility for these human rights violations. The commission of inquiry reported multiple indications of central government accountability.
(b) Switzerland endorsed creation and findings of UN Commission
Switzerland has a moral responsibility to act on the findings of the commission of inquiry because it played a leading role in its establishment and endorsement. As a member of the Human Rights Council for 2013, Switzerland actively supported the resolution that created the commission of inquiry (A/HRC/RES/22/13) and, moreover, Switzerland was a sponsor of the Council resolution (A/HRC/RES/25/25) which formally adopted the commission’s report on 28 March 2014.
Please note that Resolution 25/25 called on the General Assembly to request the Security Council to consider action to hold to account those responsible for human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The UN resolution specifically calls for consideration of “effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity.”
Switzerland has no legal or moral reason to wait before proceeding with these vital targeted sanctions. It is incumbent upon Switzerland to match its calls for action in the Human Rights Council by taking action in its own capacity, echoing the grave concerns that have been expressed and affirmed by multiple UN bodies.
(c) Swiss law and prior precedents support case for freezing North Korean assets
Switzerland has every basis in law and prior precedent to act for the people of North Korea. We recall that, acting on these laws, Switzerland in recent years has frozen the assets of several foreign leaders, including Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
Switzerland did so in accordance with Swiss laws: the Embargos Act (2002), and the Act on the Restitution of Illicit Assets (RIAA/LRAI 2011). Moreover, in 2014, Switzerland adopted a new law on the issue, theFederal Act on the Freezing and Restitution of Illicitly Acquired Assets of Foreign Politically Exposed Persons, which only underscores the government’s commitment to address this important issue.