A Note of Thanks – Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korean Political Prisons


Dear Colleagues:

On behalf of our small team here in the IBA’s D.C. office, I write to thank you for helping to make Thursday’s proceedings a success. We continue to receive favorable feedback, much of it from long-time North Korea watchers who have “seen it all” but were nonetheless moved by what they saw and heard at the hearing. In fact, several old hands noted they were hearing things for the very first time, owing in large part to the fact the two state actors/defectors had not previously shared their revelations in public.

Please allow me to state the obvious – – this was a genuine collaborative effort with a capital C. I have been a member of many teams of professionals, but never one this good. People worked energetically and selflessly throughout the planning of this event, providing sage advice that helped steer this initiative in the right direction. You are too numerous to mention, but you know who you are. Thank you!

Regarding the amount of volunteer/pro bono time we received in support of this endeavor…..well, I have lost track, but hats off to Hogan Lovells and the London law firm of 9 Bedford Row in particular for all their assistance to date. It was a monumental effort. The “bundle” that the legal team helped develop for the judges represented a colossal effort; hundreds and hundreds of hours of research and writing went into the hefty binder that is now part of the official “record.”

One quick update: I am happy to report that we had a very good session with our judges on Friday. Working with Hogan Lovells and the IBA office, they are eager to issue a forceful decision. Further, there was serious discussion about how to use the upcoming decision to achieve maximum impact, including by asking authorities in Beijing to pressure the DPRK to dismantle its political prisons. Judge Pillay and others were very much on board with this idea and expressed a willingness to travel to Beijing to make this “ask” in person.

Finally, I think everyone would agree that North Koreans lack agency like no other people on earth. Those consigned to life (and an early death) in the gulags surely are the most voiceless people known to any of us. They truly are at the mercy of the outside world — namely people of conscience like you — to tell their story and to advocate on their behalf. For those of you who have been working on these issues so diligently for years and even decades, thank you for allowing newcomers such as the IBA’s DC office to contribute to this urgent cause.

Wishing you all the best,


Michael Maya
International Bar Association, North America Office

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