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The Journal Gazette

  • In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013 in Tokyo by the Korea News Service, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea at an undisclosed location of North Korea. Kim issued “important” guidelines on how to bolster the army and protect the nation's sovereignty at the high-level ruling Workers' Party meeting, state media said Sunday, an indication Pyongyang has finalized formal procedural steps and is ready to conduct an atomic test. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION

Tuesday, February 05, 2013 11:40 am

UN report urges human rights probe of North Korea

By JOHN HEILPRINAssociated Press

The U.N. investigator for human rights in North Korea urged the world body Tuesday to open an inquiry into the secretive Asian nation for possible crimes against humanity.

In a report to the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council, Marzuki Darusman recommended that it authorize an investigation of North Korea's "grave, widespread and systematic violations of human rights."

The report to the U.N.'s top human rights body cited violations such as having prison camps, enforcing disappearances and using food to control people.

North Korea's U.N. Ambassador in Geneva, So Se Pyong, denounced the report and described Darusman - a former attorney general of Indonesia - as a "politically motivated" official whose job amounts to serving as "a marionette running here and there in order to represent the ill-minded purposes of the string-pullers such as the U.S., Japan and the member states of the (European Union)."

The Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have already condemned North Korea's human rights record, but the U.N.'s top rights official, Navi Pillay, said last month that stronger action is needed, including an investigation authorized by the United Nations but performed by independent experts.

Pillay said as many as 200,000 people are being held in North Korean political prison camps rife with torture, rape and slave labor, and that some of the abuses may amount to crimes against humanity.

North Korea maintains that U.S. hostility and the threat of American troops in South Korea also are key reasons behind its nuclear ambition. The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Last year, Darusman told the New York-based General Assembly's human rights committee that he saw no improvement in human rights under Kim Jong Un and urged the country's new leader to divert money from his "military first" policy to help more than 60 percent of the population suffering from a lack of food.

Darusman said Kim, who succeeded his father more than a year ago, had made it his top priority to strengthen the military while about 16 million of North Korea's 25 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.