UN urges action against rights abuses in N. Korea
AFP March 30, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
GENEVA -- The U.N.'s top rights body Friday called on the Security Council to act against officials responsible for a litany of crimes against humanity in North Korea.
The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution condemning the "ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations" in the isolated Asian nation.
The resolution — which passed with 30 votes in favor, six opposed and 11 abstentions — urged the Security Council to make sure "those responsible for human rights violations, including those that may amount to crimes against humanity, are held to account."
It also extended a probe into human rights violations in the country by the U.N.'s special rapporteur for another year.
North Korea, which is not a member of the rights council, slammed the resolution and its backers. Representative Se Pyong So described the text as "a mockery of the Human Rights Council as well as an insult to the international community."
Amid repeated objections from U.S. representative Paula Schriefer, So said the resolution was "a product of confrontation and plots," charging that "the United States and other hostile forces" were merely trying to "cover up their bloody history".
In a statement issued later, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Marie Harf said the vote displayed the consensus that "North Korea's leadership must be held accountable for its systematic and widespread violations of human rights."
North Korea's neighbor and long-time ally China came to Pyongyang's defense, insisting the searing 400-page report used as a basis for the resolution drew conclusions that "do not tally with the facts."
The EU, however, hailed the report by the special Commission of Inquiry set up a year ago, and said it strongly regretted that Pyongyang had refused to cooperate with the investigation team.
"We are gravely concerned by the findings", said Greek representative Alexandros Alexandris, speaking on behalf of the EU.
Japanese ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Takashi Okada, agreed.
"Japan remains deeply concerned with the longstanding and ongoing, systematic and widespread human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," he said.
'Time for action'
Quoting head of the commission, Australian judge Michael Kirby, Okada stressed: "Now is the time for action. We can't say we didn't know. Now we know."
The commission's report, released last month, documented a range of gross human rights abuses in the country, including extermination, enslavement and sexual violence.
The investigators insisted North Korea's leaders should answer for a litany of crimes against humanity before an international court.
It also condemned a widespread system of throwing generations of the same family into prison camps under guilt-by association rules.
North Korea is estimated to have 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners in its borders.
Hundreds of thousands more are believed to have perished in the camps over the past half century, "through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture," the report said.
The commission, which completed its one-year mandate this month, also slammed North Korea's abductions of an estimated 200,000 people from other countries — mostly South Koreans left stranded after the 1950-53 Korean War, but also hundreds from around the world since then.
However, North Korea's key ally China, which has a veto at the U.N. Security Council, would likely reject any referral of North Korean rights abuse cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
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