Pyongyang’s rights record trounced

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Pyongyang’s rights record trounced

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday condemning for a second consecutive year North Korea’s bleak human rights record and encouraging the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This year, 119 countries voted in support of the resolution, while 19 nations voted against and 48 abstained. Three more countries supported the bill than last year.

North Korea has criticized the resolution and blamed it on the United States “and other hostile forces.”

The adoption came after the UN General Assembly’s third committee on humanitarian affairs passed a resolution last month that recognized Pyongyang’s “ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights.”

The strongly worded resolution was co-authored by the European Union and Japan.

The General Assembly has passed a resolution condemning Pyongyang’s human rights record every year since 2005, but the fact that the resolution was adopted for a second year is ground-breaking, as it reflects the recommendations of a landmark 2014 report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in North Korea.

The core of the resolution is that the UN would be able to refer North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the ICC for crimes against humanity, if it is passed at the council.

While resolutions that pass the Assembly are not binding, they do serve as a chance for the international community to express its point of view. The Security Council held its second meeting regarding the human rights situation in North Korea since the issue was put on the agenda for the first time a year ago.

Although an ICC referral is likely to be blocked by China and Russia, which have veto power in the council, the push will leave room for both countries to wield power over North Korea on strategic issues including its nuclear program.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said in a recent interview with Korean media that the council’s discussion over the human rights situation in North Korea would increase China’s leverage over North Korea.

While North Korea faces mounting pressure from international society, the resolution could impact the timing of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Pyongyang.

Ban acknowledged this week that he was in negotiations to schedule a trip to Pyongyang to promote inter-Korean peace and reconciliation and reduce tensions.

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