By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – The top United Nations human rights body agreed on Friday to widen its investigation into widespread violations in North Korea with a view to documenting 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 text had been framed by the United States and “other hostile forces” for political reasons “to strangle the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea),” its envoy said after boycotting the debate.
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 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 in a statement.
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 (ICC).
“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,” Mun Jong Chol, a counselor at North Korea’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva, told reporters.
It was a fraudulent document full of “lies, fabrications and plots”, Mun said.
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.
“China hopes we can focus on the bigger picture,” it said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Ralph Boulton)