UN resolution on rights passes

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UN resolution on rights passes

The South Korean government on Friday lauded a United Nations resolution condemning Pyongyang’s abysmal human rights record that for a second year recommends referring violators to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The UN General Assembly’s third committee on humanitarian affairs on Thursday in New York passed a strongly worded resolution co-authored by the European Union and Japan that recognized Pyongyang’s “ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights.”

As a follow-up to last year’s resolution, it again recommended the UN Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the ICC in The Hague for crimes against humanity.

The Security Council did not do so last year, but for the first time, it put the North Korean human rights issue on its agenda. The resolution calls for targeted sanctions on those responsible for such crimes.

The draft resolution was co-sponsored by more than 50 countries and received 112 votes in favor and 19 votes against. The nay votes included China and Russia - who are permanent members of the Security Council with veto power - and Cuba, Syria and Iran. There were 50 abstentions.

The General Assembly has passed a resolution condemning Pyongyang’s human rights record every year since 2005, but last year’s resolution was groundbreaking, as it reflected the recommendations of a landmark 2014 report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in North Korea. This year’s resolution again follows the recommendations of the report.

The South’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Cho June-hyuck said in a statement on Friday, “Following last year, we regard the passing of the resolution with a large number of votes as a reflection of the interest and concern from the international community over the gravity of North Korea’s human rights situation.”

He added that the Korean government urges North Korea to “sincerely take in the UN General Assembly’s advice and take the necessary measures to improve its human rights situation.”

The North Korean delegation to the United Nations denounced the resolution in a statement, calling it a “conspiracy of the United States and other hostile forces” against North Korea.

The resolution is expected to be adopted by the General Assembly in December.

There is interest to see if this will impact the timing of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s trip to Pyongyang, which the United Nations confirmed is in the works.

“The UN passed a North Korea human rights resolution every November or December. Now and March, when then UN Human Rights Council regular session opens, is the time period the United Nations puts most pressure on North Korea over human rights issues,” a foreign affairs official said.

BY SARAH KIM, YOO JEE-HYE [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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