UN rights team will seek to hold N.Korea leaders to account


GENEVA, Switzerland – The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, March 24 voted to create an expert group to explore legal pathways to hold North Korea's leadership accountable for widespread and horrific rights abuses in the country.

The UN's top rights body adopted a resolution voicing deep concern at the findings in a landmark 2014 report that North Korea is wracked by "widespread and gross human rights violations ... that in many instances, constitute crimes against humanity," and which are "pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades."

Condemning the "impunity of perpetrators", the resolution, which passed by consensus, called on the office of UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein to "designate, for a period of 6 months, a maximum of two existing independent experts" to help the UN's main rights expert on North Korea.

The new expert group, the resolution said, should "focus on issues of accountability for human rights violations in the country, in particular where such violations amount to crimes against humanity."

It will be tasked with recommending "practical mechanisms of accountability to secure truth and justice for the victims," including referral to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Last month, the outgoing UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, issued a report calling for Pyongyang's leadership to be held criminally responsible for egregious abuses.

In the report, he called for "an official communication" from the UN to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un about the prospect of investigations and prosecutions.

The report said the UN should advise Kim "and other senior leaders that they may be investigated and, if found to be responsible, held accountable for crimes against humanity committed under their leadership."

He decried that the vast array of horrifying crimes documented in the 2014 report "appear to continue".

"Political prison camps remain in operation. Reports of torture and other violations against prisoners in political and ordinary prisons continue," the report said. 

Speaking to reporters earlier this month, Darusman, who will hand the baton on to a new special rapporteur on North Korea after the Human Rights Council wraps up its main annual session Thursday, said the responsibility for the ongoing abuses in the country undoubtedly "lies with the government." – Rappler.com