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UNGA asks Security Council to refer North Korea to ICC

That commission of inquiry report sharply increased international pressure on North Korea over its human rights situation.

Associated Press

Updated:October 9, 2014, 11:25 PM IST
UNGA asks Security Council to refer North Korea to ICC
That commission of inquiry report sharply increased international pressure on North Korea over its human rights situation.

United Nations: A draft resolution for the UN General Assembly's human rights committee encourages the Security Council to consider referring the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

A copy obtained Thursday by The Associated Press says the council should follow the recommendations of a UN commission of inquiry report earlier this year that was harshly critical of the impoverished and reclusive regime.

A key recommendation of the report was an ICC referral.

That commission of inquiry report sharply increased international pressure on North Korea over its human rights situation, and a North Korean briefing this week at the UN on human rights was seen as an effort to get ahead of the expected General Assembly resolution.

The draft resolution, by the European Union and Japan, is non-binding. Even if the Security Council takes up the recommendation to refer North Korea's situation to the ICC, the effort is expected to fail because China, North Korea's most powerful ally, would likely use its veto power as a permanent council member.

The draft resolution says the commission of inquiry's findings, along with testimony and other information, "provide reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed" in North Korea.

The EU and Japan have teamed up in recent years on General Assembly resolutions on North Korea's human rights, but the call to consider an ICC referral is new.

A person who answered the phone at North Korea's mission to the United Nations said a spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The UN commission of inquiry concluded that North Korea's authoritarian government had committed crimes against humanity. "We dare say that the case of human rights in the DPRK exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror," commission head Michael Kirby told the U.N. Security Council.

Pressure continued in March, when the UN's 47-nation Human Rights Council approved a resolution on North Korea's human rights that allowed a special rapporteur to keep investigating suspected crimes against humanity and other abuses in the nation. The draft resolution says the special rapporteur has not been allowed to visit the country.

And last month, in a meeting on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders, US Secretary of State John Kerry called for North Korea to shut down its "evil system" of prison camps. He spoke at a gathering of foreign officials and activists meant to draw attention to the commission of inquiry report.

Right observers say Pyongyang is now recognizing that the international focus on its human rights will not fade away. On Tuesday, a North Korean official publicly acknowledged to the international community the existence of his country's "reform through labor" camps, and another official told reporters that the secretary of the ruling Workers' Party recently visited the EU and expressed interest in dialogue, with discussions on human rights expected next year.

In Brussels on Tuesday, an EU official confirmed a recent North Korea meeting with the EU's top human rights official, Stavros Lambrinidis, and said any dialogue currently planned is limited to rights issues.

The new draft resolution also urges the Security Council to consider the scope "for effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity." It expresses deep concern at the country's "precarious humanitarian situation" while noting signs of cooperation between the North and some of the UN's aid agencies.

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