UN moves to crack down on North Korea

The world’s boldest effort yet to hold North Korea and leader Kim Jong Un accountable for alleged crimes against humanity moved forward yesterday at the UN, where a Pyongyang envoy threatened further nuclear tests.

The UN General Assembly’s human rights committee approved a resolution that urges the Security Council to refer the country’s human rights situation to the International Criminal Court. The non-binding resolution now goes to the General Assembly for a vote in the coming weeks. China and Russia, which hold veto power on the council, voted against it.

The resolution was inspired by a groundbreaking UN commission of inquiry report early this year that declared North Korea’s human rights situation “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror”.

The UN committee has adopted similar resolutions on the North’s abysmal human rights conditions in the past.

But the fact that this year’s resolution includes the new idea that their absolute leader could be targeted by prosecutors has pushed the communist country to make a more furious response as that would pose a setback to its recent efforts to improve ties with the outside world to lure foreign investment and aid and revive the country’s troubled economy.

North Korean officials would also view the resolution as a potential embarrassment to their young leader who took power after the death of his dictator father Kim Jong Il in late 2011.

North Korea sent a sharp warning in comments before the vote. Trying to punish it over human rights “is compelling us not to refrain any further from conducting nuclear tests”, said Choe Myong Nam, a foreign ministry adviser for UN and human rights issues. His colleagues gave no details on that threat.

Choe also accused the EU and Japan, the resolution’s co-sponsors, of “subservience and sycophancy” to the US, and he promised “unpredictable and serious consequences” if the resolution went forward.

The EU quickly issued a statement welcoming the support of 111 countries in the vote. Nineteen countries voted against, and 55 abstained.

“It is admirable that the member states of the United Nations are acting to protect the people of North Korea when their own government fails to do so”, the head of the commission of inquiry, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, said in an email.

Also, there is little chance that Russia and China will let the Security Council refer the North’s human rights situation to the ICC in The Hague, analysts said.


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