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Key UN committee condemns North Korean violations of rights

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- A key UN committee approved a resolution Thursday condemning North Korea's widespread human rights violations which may amount to crimes against humanity -- a decision denounced by the country's UN mission as "politically motivated" and based on "fabrications."

The resolution, sponsored by the European Union and joined by the United States and others, was approved by consensus by the General Assembly's human rights committee, with a bang of the chairman's gavel.

It is virtually certain to be adopted when the 193-member assembly votes on it in December.

UN Commission (AP)
UN Commission (AP)

The resolution condemns North Korea's "ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights," including those that a UN commission of inquiry says may amount to crimes against humanity.

It cites numerous violations including torture, rape, public executions, an extensive system of political prison camps and "all-pervasive and severe restrictions" on freedoms of thought, religion, expression and peaceful assembly.

North Korea's UN Mission said in a statement that the resolution contains "nothing but the most despicable false testimonials fabricated by a handful of riffraff 'defectors' who escaped after having committed crimes to sustain their dirty lives."

"The 'human rights issues' mentioned in the 'resolution' have never existed and cannot be allowed to exist in our country where dignity and independent rights of a human being are most valued," the mission said.

It expressed "alarm" that "some hostile forces including the EU incite confrontation in the holy stage of the United Nations" by adopting a human rights resolution against North Korea "which is full of politically-motivated criticism and fabrications against the trend of the times aspiring after the lasting and durable peace and cooperation in the Korean peninsula."

The committee's adoption of the resolution came on the same day that North Korea said the United States has proposed a resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations in December. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has set an end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to offer an acceptable deal to salvage the talks.

The resolution approved Thursday expresses "very serious concern" at the North Korean government's continuing failure to acknowledge "the grave human rights situation in the country."

It points to a "pervasive culture of impunity and the lack of accountability for human rights violations." And it underscores the human rights committee's "very serious concern regarding reports of torture, summary executions, arbitrary detention, abductions and other forms of human rights violations and abuses" against citizens of other countries.

It also notes "with concern" UN findings that 10.9 million people in North Korea -- nearly half the population -- are estimated to be undernourished.

The resolution "strongly urges" North Korea's government to respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, to immediately halt all violations, close prison camps and ensure that everyone in the country can move freely and leave when they want. (AP)