U.S. urges more North Korean human rights scrutiny

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States pushed Monday for more scrutiny of human rights conditions in North Korea, telling the U.N. Human Rights Council that it is now impossible to verify claims of abuses in the isolated communist state.

“The lack of remedies or transparent accountability in dealing with allegations of abuse makes it difficult for foreign governments to accurately assess the human rights situation,” U.S. ambassador Robert King told the Geneva-based body. The 47-member Human Rights Council is reviewing North Korea this week for the first time as part of its universal periodic review process, which was launched in 2006 to assess human rights conditions in every U.N. member state.

Rights groups have accused North Korea of maintaining a network of political prisons where anyone thought to be associated with anything that may run counter to Kim Jong-il’s rule can be jailed along with their families.

But Pyongyang -- which is engaged in international nuclear disarmament talks involving the United States -- has denounced such criticism of its rights record saying it is part of a conspiracy to topple its leaders.

In his prepared remarks, King said Washington was “deeply concerned” about reports of extrajudicial executions, torture and other violations in North Korea’s prisons and labor camps, including abuses against women and children.

He urged Pyongyang to create an independent human rights institution with the assistance of U.N. experts, and said outside investigators should also be allowed to assess North Korea’s detention facilities and other sites of reported abuse.