U.N. panel again slams Pyongyang

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U.N. panel again slams Pyongyang

A UN General Assembly committee adopted a resolution denouncing human rights violations in North Korea, expressing “very serious concern” over the rights situation in the communist nation and urging the regime to end abuses, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

South Korea co-sponsored the resolution adopted Thursday at the committee in a 103-18 vote with 60 abstentions, the ministry said in a statement. The assembly has adopted such a resolution on North Korea’s human rights conditions every year since 2005.

“The General Assembly ... expresses its very serious concern at the presence of continuing reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in North Korea,” the resolution said.

North Korea has long been labeled one of the worst human rights violators in the world. The communist regime of leader Kim Jong-il does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps and keeps a tight control over outside information.

Pyongyang has bristled at any talk of its human rights conditions, calling it a U.S.-led attempt to topple the regime.

The long list of rights violations cited in the UN resolution includes torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, public executions, arbitrary detention, the absence of due process and bad treatment of asylum seekers.

The resolution “strongly urged” North Korea to “respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms” and “immediately put an end to the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights.”

It also urged all countries to treat North Korean asylum seekers humanely and ensure unhindered access to the UN agency for refugees.

In particular, this year’s resolution expressed hope that South and North Korea will make “necessary arrangements for further reunions” of separated families on a larger scale and regular basis, calling the issue an “urgent humanitarian concern of the entire Korean people.”

North Korean deputy ambassador to the UN, Pak Tok-hun, said his country “categorically rejects” the resolution, calling it “an illegal document” cooked up by the United States and its supporters that “recklessly encroaches upon our sovereignty,” according to news reports.

On Wednesday, the U.S. listed North Korea as among the eight worst offenders of religious freedom, saying the reclusive communist state severely restricts religious activity except for that supervised by the government.

The 2010 Report on International Religious Freedom put the North on the list of “Countries of Particular Concern” for the 10th consecutive year. The seven others are China, Iran, Eritrea, Myanmar, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

“Although the constitution provides for freedom of religious belief, genuine religious freedom does not exist, and there was no change in the extremely poor level of respect for religious freedom, ” the report said.

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