U.N. broadens probe into N. Korea ‘crimes against humanity’
The top United Nations human rights body agreed on March 24, 2017, to widen its investigation into widespread violations in North Korea to document alleged crimes against humanity for future prosecution.
North Korea said it “categorically and totally rejects” the resolution adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council. The 47-member state Geneva forum adopted a resolution, brought by Japan and the European Union and backed by the United States, on the final day of its four-week session without a vote.
The U.N. human rights office in Seoul, South Korea, will be strengthened for two years with international criminal justice experts to establish a central repository for testimony and evidence “with a view to developing possible strategies to be used in any future accountability process,” the text said.
The Seoul office deploys six staff who conduct in-depth interviews with dozens of North Korean defectors each week, recording their testimony, a U.N. official based there told Reuters. Some 1,400 North Koreans arrive each year in South Korea, most via China, he said.
“This not only brings North Koreans one step closer to justice for human rights crimes they have suffered, but should also make North Korean government officials think twice before inflicting more abuse,” John Fisher of the group Human Rights Watch said.
A U.N. commission of inquiry, in a landmark 2014 report based on interviews and public hearings with defectors, cataloged massive violations in North Korea — including large prison camps, starvation and executions — that it said should be brought to the International Criminal Court.
“The resolution is nothing more than a document for interference in internal affairs of sovereign states and represents the culmination of politicization, selectivity and double standards of human rights,” said Mun Jong Chol, pictured, a counselor at North Korea’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva.
China said it “dissociated” itself from the council’s decision and called for dialogue. The situation on the divided Korean Peninsula is “complex and sensitive,” and all sides should avoid provocation by an act or words that might lead to an escalation,” China’s delegation said.