North Korea, Kenya Pose Tough Choices For Diplomats

Balancing Diplomacy And Human Rights

For generations diplomats and world leaders have faced a difficult decision on how to hold leaders and nations to account for human rights abuses. Recent actions taken by the United Nations to tighten international sanctions on North Korea have resulted from their pursuit of nuclear weapons, not as a consequence for their abysmal human rights record. so, is it time for the West to fulfill its obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

North Korean Human Rights Record Merits Tougher Stance

Gregory A. Pavone advocates for a harder stance on North Korea, a nation with arguably the worst human rights record in recent memory. Writing in the Diplomatic Courier, Pavone believes that “we as a race are collectively failing” to live up to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is time policy toward Pyongyang live up to the declaration’s promise.

Citing State Department estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are currently living, working, and dying in a network of six political prison camps, Pavone suggests targeting North Korea where it will have an impact – its economy.

“The best way to peacefully get Pyongyang to address these issues is to crackdown on the regime’s pocketbooks. More specifically, the international community needs to work closely with China to pursue policies that economically isolate North Korea as much as possible,” contends Pavone.

Kenya’s Elections Pose A Common Dilemma

Uhuru Kenyatta has emerged as the victor in Kenya’s presidential election, a result which again poses a quandary for the US and other Western nations. It is also notable that Kenyatta’s running mate, William Ruto, is also indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes committed in 2007.

Can Nations Work With An Indicted War Criminal?

So the question being asked in capitals across Europe and in Washington is: Can nations that promote freedom and human rights work with an accused war criminal?

It is not a new dilemma. In fact, it is more common than most are comfortable admitting. The short answer is yes, the US and the West can work with Kenyatta. The real question, says Suzanne Nossel, is “whether actively opposing his assumption of power will indeed advance the cause of international justice at all.”

Secretary of State John Kerry was careful to walk a fine line following the election by extending congratulations “the people of Kenya for voting peacefully on March 4,” rather than to Kenyatta himself.

Kenyatta, Ruto To Face ICC Trial Soon

The question was on the minds of diplomats leading up to the election. As Richard Lough reports in Reuters Kenyatta and Ruto will face trial before the ICC shortly after the election.

One Western diplomat told Lough that “you don’t need a PhD in international relations to know the options open to us.” However, most diplomats would not specifically cite what concrete actions their governments would take in the event if Kenyatta refuses to appear.


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