By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea boycotted a U.N. review of its human rights record on Monday, shunning calls to hold to account the Pyongyang leadership for crimes against humanity documented by the world body.
A 2014 U.N. report detailed the use of political prison camps, starvation and executions, saying security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself should face international justice.
The U.N. Human Rights Council held a two-hour session on abuses in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) amid rising tensions on the divided peninsula following its latest missile tests last week and two nuclear tests last year.
“We are not participating in any meeting on DPRK’s human rights situation because it is politically motivated,” Choe Myong Nam, Pyongyang’s deputy ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told Reuters.
U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK Tomas Ojea Quintana said he regretted the decision but was still seeking engagement with North Korea.
Rising political and military tensions should not shield ongoing violations from international scrutiny, he said.
“Military tensions have brought human rights dialogue with the DPRK to a standstill,” Ojea Quintana told the 47-member forum.
He also called for an independent investigation into the killing of Kim Jong Nam, estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-un, in Malaysia last month, saying there may be a need to “protect other persons from targeted killings”.
Between 80,000 and 120,000 people are held in four known political prison camps in North Korea and hundreds of families in South Korea and Japan are looking for missing relatives believed abducted by North Korean agents, Ojea Quintana said.
“We remain deeply concerned by ongoing widespread and gross human rights violations and abuses in the DPRK, including summary executions, enslavement, torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances,” said William Mozdzierz,
head of the U.S. delegation.
He added that the U.S. is open to improved relations if the DPRK was willing to meet its international obligations.
South Korea’s envoy Lim Jung-taek voiced dismay that three years after the landmark U.N. report there was “no glimpse of hope” for ending “systematic, widespread and gross violations”.
Ying Wang of China, North Korea’s main ally, said Beijing was “against the politicization of human rights issues” while seeking dialogue and de-escalation on the peninsula.
Sara Hossain, a member of the Council’s group of independent experts on accountability, said the U.N. should consider ways of prosecuting those responsible for human rights abuses in North Korea, possibly by creating an international tribunal.
“The groundwork for future criminal trials should be laid now,” she said.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Julia Glover)