NK Watch will take legal action against TJWG for publicizing personal data of victims without their consent(2021/02/18)

On February 10th, NK Watch’s legal representative sent the certification of contents to the Transitional Justice Working Group (hereafter TJWG). The certification listed NK Watch’s requests to TJWG to deliver a public apology and to immediately delete 125 victim’s personal data, which are publicized on TJWG’s website, FOOTPRINTS, without the consent of the victims. In addition, on February 10th, NK Watch posted a statement regarding TJWG’s use of personal data.

Although it has been a week, TJWG has neither deleted the personal data nor delivered a public apology. NK Watch hoped that TJWG would immediately respond to this issue if TJWG understands the concerns of the victims* and witnesses*.

All personal data of victims, publicized on TJWG’s website without the consent of victims and witnesses, are still available on FOOTPRINTS. Thus, NK Watch and the witnesses will take legal actions against TJWG. We reiterate our view about TJWG’s use of personal data.

* Victim: family members of witness currently residing in the DPRK

* Witness: North Korean defectors who testified to NK Watch on human rights violations in North Korea.

1.The essence of the problem is that TJWG disclosed personal data without the consent of the victim and witnesses.

1)The reason NK Watch raises this issue is not only because TJWG claimed as their own the records that were based on the petitions NK Watch submitted to the WGEID and WGAD.

2)NK Watch was delegated by the witnesses to document cases of human rights violations in the DPRK and to submit the cases to the UN on behalf of them. As their “representative”, NK Watch requested TJWG to take actions that are common-sense and human rights-sensitive.

3)Although the personal data listed on the reports of WGEID* and/or WGAD* are based on the petitions submitted by NK Watch, NK Watch did not disclose or publicize the victims’ personal information on our website or social media to showcase the record as our achievement. The reason for our action is simple. None of the witnesses want the personal information of victims, who are their family, to be used for secondary or other purposes. If one understands the concerns of the witnesses, there is absolutely no reason to reproduce or spread victims’ personal information.

*WGEID: Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

*WGAD: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

2. NK Watch’s demand is clear: Immediately delete all personal data of 125 cases disclosed without the consent of the victims and deliver a public apology.

1)Both NK Watch and TJWG are working for the same goal: Hold North Korea accountable for crimes against humanity. In order to hold the perpetrators accountable for their action, facts regarding the violation and harm done to the victim need to be established. The perpetrators need to admit their wrong-doing and provide damage relief. Damage relief can take various forms including legal action. NK Watch believes that an apology by TJWG with a promise that the organization would prevent a reoccurrence of this issue is a way to relieve damage as well.

2) Both NK Watch and TJWG are fighting for the same cause: Fight against the deceptive behavior of the North Korean government, which continuously denies the existence of and its responsibility for human rights violations. If the “justice”, which TJWG is seeking, is the same as ours, NK Watch urges TJWG to delete all personal data of victims disclosed without their consent and make a public apology promising to prevent the recurrence of the issue.

3.NK Watch again restates that TJWG should be considerate of the victims and witnesses. Why should the personal information of victims be disclosed to the public if the witnesses do not want nor consent to it. What would you do if that person is you or your family?

1) NK Watch has been receiving calls from our witnesses expressing their concerns and fears, since TJWG unauthorizedly used personal data of victims on its website FOOTPRINTS. It is heartbreaking for us to hear their concerns and see our witnesses constantly worried what might happen to the victim or their family.

2) NK Watch has given TJWG the time to consider their actions and wanted to reach an amicable solution.

3) However, NK Watch is concerned about the continued publicization of the personal information of victims and can no longer stand aside. Thus, NK Watch will take legal action with our witnesses against TJWG for using personal data without the victims’ and/or witnesses’ consent.

February 18th, 2021

NK Watch

※ For questions related to the content in the statement, please contact us at the main email address nkgulag@gmail.com.