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Argumentation, Impact, and Normative Change: Responsibility to Protect after the Commission of Inquiry Report into Human Rights in North Korea

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In 2014 a UNHRC report found North Korea was practicing mass atrocities, contravening the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm, and it called for sanctions and referral of the matter to the International Criminal Court. This paper assesses the report’s impact upon ‘the matter of human rights in North Korea’ and upon the R2P norm itself. We find that when a relatively ‘demanding’ standard is applied, whereby R2P is judged to be effective only if it affects the actual human rights situation, the report has had little impact. But judging impact according to a more ‘forgiving’ standard suggests the report has substantially affected international debates about human rights in North Korea. We also argue that the report affected the R2P norm itself: specifically, Pillars I and II are now considered relevant in cases of ‘chronic’ abuse, although strong opposition to the position that Pillar III measures are also relevant remains strong.

Affiliations: 1: ; 2: The University of Western Australia, Australia,


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