North continues to deny its human rights abuses

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North continues to deny its human rights abuses

A year since the release of a landmark UN-backed report on North Korea’s deplorable human rights violations, Pyongyang has upped its diplomatic campaign against international voices in defense of its rights situation.

Earlier this month, the North Korean government called on Indonesia and the United States to cancel international conferences on the human rights situation in Pyongyang.

It will also dispatch its top envoy to Geneva next month to attend a UN Human Rights Council meeting.

Most recently, North Korean diplomats last week called upon the U.S. government to scrap a human rights conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an American think tank.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday lambasted the CSIS forum, entitled, “North Korean Human Rights: The Road Ahead,” which was held Feb. 17 in Washington and included speakers such as Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.

In a statement published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North’s Foreign Ministry called for the United States and its allies to “mind their own business.”

It added that the CSIS conference was held under “the absurd pretext of the anniversary” of a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in North Korea, which was published in February 2014.

Jang Il-hun, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, said earlier that week that he had requested the U.S. State Department to cancel the CSIS conference, which hosted global human rights experts, North Korean defectors, government officials and the three commissions in the UN Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Pyongyang.

The State Department, however, responded that the forum was not a U.S. government event, Jang said in a press conference on Feb. 16. North Korea and the United States do not have formal diplomatic ties.

The previous week, Ri Jong-ryul, North Korea’s ambassador to Indonesia, lodged a complaint with the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to prevent an international human rights symposium held in Jakarta on Feb. 10, organized by the South Korean Human Rights Commission and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

Next, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong is scheduled to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, said the North’s official KCNA on Saturday. Ri is in the midst of a rare overseas trip to Mongolia prior to heading to Geneva, it added.

In March 2014, the council adopted a resolution based on the recommendation of a landmark report published in February by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s formal name.

An array of crimes against humanity by the North Korean regime was detailed in the report, which recommended referring North Korea’s leaders responsible for human rights atrocities to the International Criminal Court.

This prompted the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution supporting the commission’s findings and the UN Security Council to pose a debate on the human rights situation in North Korea for the first time in December.

The month-long UN Human Rights Council kicks off March 2 and is expected to adopt another resolution supporting the 2014 resolution.

Ri is expected to counter this at the council.

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

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