Webcast interview and Q&A with Michael Kirby

The IBA’s first live webcast of 2014, on 21 March, featured Michael Kirby, Chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea. The former Australian High Court judge discussed the findings of the report, his methods of inquiry and what steps can be taken to bring accountability for the gross human rights abuses perpetuated by the Pyongyang regime. He also gave his views on the global ‘war on drugs’, his work with the Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) and his efforts to get worldwide reform for anti-gay laws.

The interview was conducted by veteran BBC correspondent Kirsty Lang. Lang has worked on the BBC’s flagship Today programme, and is a former foreign correspondent for Newsnight, Channel 4 News and The Sunday Times. For over a decade, she presented BBC current affairs programme World News Today, and has extensive knowledge of North Korea and the Asia Pacific region. She currently presents BBC Radio Four’s Front Row series.

The 400-page UN report on North Korea, published on 17 February, accuses the regime of committing ‘unspeakable atrocities’ and calls on the international community to bring those responsible to justice. The Commission heard evidence of torture, enslavement, sexual violence, starvation, murder and an ‘almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’. Testimony given by defectors included an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera.

Pyongyang refused to co-operate with the report and rejects its conclusions.

‘The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.’ - UN report.

‘At the end of the Second World War, so many people said, “If only we had known the wrongs that were done in the countries of the hostile forces.” Well, now the international community does know [...]. There will be no excusing of failure of action because we didn't know.’ - Michael Kirby

The IBA’s live webcast series has been running since 2010 and has featured some of the most prominent figures in the world of international justice and business. The lively hour-long interviews are streamed live on the IBA website and include an interactive Q&A with viewers. Previous interviewees have included Ángel Gurría, Secretary General of the OECD, and Sir Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights.