March 23, 2016 / 10:09 PM / 4 years ago

U.N. rights forum sets up group to pursue crimes by North Korea

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday set up a group of independent experts to study how to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against humanity committed by North Korea, but Pyongyang rejected the move as politically motivated.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to the October 3 Factory under KPA Navy Unit 597 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION

The 47-member forum adopted by consensus a resolution brought by the European Union and Japan that condemned “the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”.

These included “acts of extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape and other grave forms of sexual violence and persecution on political, religious and gender grounds in political prison camps and ordinary prisons”.

The Council also called on the government to dismantle “all political prison camps”, release all political prisoners, and resolve the fate of abducted foreign nationals.

The delegations of Russia and North Korea’s closest ally China took the floor before the decision to say that they “disassociated” themselves from the consensus.

North Korea’s delegation, as announced by its foreign minister Ri Su Yong in a speech at the start of the four-week session, boycotted the debate on its record.

In a statement sent to Reuters, North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva said, “We totally reject the anti-DPRK ‘resolution’ as it represents an extreme manifestation of politicization, selectivity and double standards”.

The resolution was a “product of political and military confrontation, plot and conspiracy of the United States and other hostile forces,” North Korea said.

The Council called on the experts over the next six months to “recommend practical mechanisms of accountability to secure truth and justice for the victims of possible crimes against humanity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including the International Criminal Court”.

Any move by the U.N. Security Council to refer North Korea to the Hague-based ICC would require the backing of all major powers, including China.

Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. human rights investigator for North Korea, called last week for its leader Kim Jong Un and senior officials to be prosecuted for committing crimes against humanity.

During the debate, China’s envoy said it “opposed any politicization of human rights and any ‘naming and shaming’ and exerting open pressure”.

Russia’s envoy said that no country was free of human rights violations, adding, “In that regard Pyongyang has considerable work to do.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tom Miles, Toni Reinhold

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