December 5, 2014 / 5:30 PM / 5 years ago

U.N. Security Council members push to put North Korea rights on agenda

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Two-thirds of the U.N. Security Council’s members pushed on Friday for the human rights situation in North Korea to be added to the council’s agenda and for a formal meeting to be held this month, a move that cannot be blocked by Pyongyang ally China.

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry report in February detailed abuses in North Korea that it said were comparable to Nazi-era atrocities, and a U.N. committee last month urged the Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging crimes against humanity.

China, likely supported by Russia, would probably veto any referral to the international court based in The Hague, diplomats say, but it cannot block having the rights situation added to the council agenda.

Ten of the Security Council’s 15 members - Australia, Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, South Korea, Rwanda, Britain and the United States - signed a letter drafted by Australia asking for the council to be briefed by U.N. officials on the human rights situation in North Korea.

“We are particularly concerned by the scale and gravity of human rights violations detailed in the comprehensive report” by the Commission of Inquiry, said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

“These violations threaten to have a destabilizing impact on the region and the maintenance of international peace and security,” it said.

China, Russia, Argentina, Chad and Nigeria did not sign the letter. North Korea’s U.N. mission was not immediately available for comment.

Majority support is needed to add a new item to the U.N. Security Council agenda and such a move cannot be blocked by any of the five veto-wielding powers - the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China, diplomats said.

Nuclear non-proliferation in North Korea has long been on the council agenda. North Korea is under U.N., U.S. and other national sanctions for repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests since 2006 in defiance of international demands to stop.

Once an issue is on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council it can be discussed by the body at any time.

The move is likely to irritate Pyongyang, which mounted a diplomatic charm offensive at the United Nations in a bid halt a U.N. General Assembly resolution that supports referring the state to the ICC.

The General Assembly Third Committee, which deals with human rights, adopted the resolution last month and it will be formally approved by the 193-member General Assembly later this month.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Leslie Adler

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