UN explores new rights initiative with North Korea

A UN rights investigator said Tuesday that an invitation from North Korea opens up possibilities to engage with Pyongyang on improving their dismal rights record.

United Nations: A UN rights investigator said Tuesday that an invitation from North Korea opens up possibilities to engage with Pyongyang on improving their dismal rights record.

Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations special rapporteur on North Korea, met with North Korean officials on Monday as he prepared to present a report recommending that Pyongyang be referred for war crimes prosecution.

It was the first meeting between North Korea and a UN rights investigator in 10 years and followed the release in March of a UN inquiry that laid bare the brutality of the Pyongyang regime.

"We are at the beginning of a process," Darusman said of the talks held Monday at UN headquarters.

"More progress has taken place in the last three months than in the last 10 years in terms of the openness and the readiness of the North Koreans to come out of their shell."

During the meeting that lasted for more than an hour, the North Koreans offered to extend an invitation to the rapporteur and to the UN rights commissioner to pay a first landmark visit to North Korea.

But the North Koreans also raised their objection to a planned UN resolution requesting that the Pyongyang regime be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The draft resolution is to be presented by the European Union and Japan to the UN General Assembly later this week and a vote is expected next month.

Darusman agreed to speak to the sponsors of the resolution about dropping a possible referral to the ICC while discussing the terms of a possible visit with the North Koreans.

"The ultimate test of the government`s engagement would be whether or not the special rapporteur is allowed entry into the country," he said.

An invitation from Pyongyang would not be "a visit for the sake of visiting", he said, adding that he would need agreement to inspect any location including prison camps.

"That would be quite high on the list," he said.

"It needs to be a visit with a substantive and effective objective," he added.

The UN inquiry detailed a vast network of prison camps and documented cases of torture, enslavement and rape, among other violations.

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