UN close to vote on North’s rights

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UN close to vote on North’s rights

Despite months of Pyongyang’s efforts to block a strongly-worded UN resolution calling upon the regime’s leadership to take responsibility for its human rights atrocities, a UN General Assembly committee is expected to pass the draft without a hitch today in New York.

A Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said yesterday, “Looking at the developments up until now, it is highly likely that the EU draft resolution will overwhelmingly be passed.”

This comes despite a Cuban move to counter the resolution recently with an amendment. The draft resolution that will be put to a vote today in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, authored by the European Union, is supported by some 50 countries including South Korea, and calls upon the Security Council to refer North Korea’s leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. It does not separately name Kim Jong-un.

It also calls upon the council to consider “targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible ... for the crimes against humanity.”

Chances are slim that Cuba’s amendment will be adopted.

“Should Cuba’s amendment be passed, a new resolution will result, but there is very little likelihood of this happening, less than 10 percent,” the Seoul official added.

Cuba’s proposed amendment to the resolution instead calls for an adoption of “a new cooperative approach for the consideration of the human rights” issue in North Korea, namely dialogue, technical cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and a visit by a special rapporteur to Pyongyang. The Cuban mission to the UN said the human rights report “has not been confirmed” and questioned whether it was sufficient for a country to be “subject to the discretion of the Security Council and the International Criminal Court.”

The resolution expected to be passed today is based on the findings of a report released in February by a Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea’s human rights situation that detailed systematic abuses - rape, torture and arbitrary detention by the regime - taking place in the country.

In 2012 and 2013, resolutions condemning North Korea’s human rights violations were passed in the Third Committee without a vote, which occurs when an overwhelming majority of the member states approve a resolution.

The UN General Assembly has approved resolutions on North Korea’s human rights violations since 2005.

However, the Foreign Ministry official said the votes of 54 African nations might play the “biggest variable,” especially as many cases of referral to the ICC in the past have been from African nations. Should the draft pass the Third Committee, which covers social and humanitarian affairs, it will be put to a vote in the UN General Assembly next month, where it is also expected to be adopted. Afterward, the 15-member Security Council would put it to a vote.

China, one of five permanent members, is likely to exercise its veto power on the issue. Choe Ryong-hae, director of the North Korean People’s Army Politburo, yesterday departed for Russia, another Security Council member with veto power, for an eight-day trip seen as the regime’s latest diplomatic move to counter accusations against it in terms of human rights.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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