North Korea boycotts U.N. human rights session

Mark Ross
By Mark Ross
March 13, 2017World News

A United Nations investigator into North Korea opened a Human Rights Council session in Geneva on Monday (March 13) saying that an escalation in hostilities on the divided peninsula had further closed off opportunities for dialogue with Pyongyang’s isolated government.

The U.N. Human Rights Council held a two-hour session on abuses in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) where rights experts called for action against perpetrators of crimes against humanity documented in a 2014 U.N. report that detailed the use of political prison camps, starvation and executions.

“I am concerned about the escalation in hostilities in the Korean peninsula since the resumption by DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) of nuclear tests and missile launches using ballistic technology in January 2016, up until last week’s reported missile launches towards the Sea of Japan. These activities have put the few existing opportunities for cooperation and dialogue on human rights in jeopardy,” U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK Tomas Ojea Quintana said.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a string of missile tests since the beginning of last year, despite the imposition of new U.N. sanctions.

Ojea Quintana said rising political and military tensions should not shield ongoing violations from international scrutiny.

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.

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.

North Korea was called on to reply but there was no delegation in the room. The deputy ambassador, Choe Myong-nam, called any meeting on his country’s human rights situation “politically motivated”.

Ojea Quintana said he regretted the decision but was still seeking engagement with the country.

Last week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said Washington was re-evaluating its North Korea strategy and “all options are on the table.”

“We reiterate that we are open to improve relations with the DPRK, if it is willing to take concrete actions to live up to its international obligations and commitments. Ultimately, the DPRK will be judged not by its words, but by the actions it takes to uphold its obligations and commitments,” said the head of the U.S. delegation, William Mozdzierz.


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