United Nations: A judge who led a ground-breaking inquiry of North Korea's dismal rights record urged the United Nations today to seek war crimes prosecutions of the regime despite Pyongyang's "charm offensive."
Australian judge Michael Kirby said the UN Security Council should refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court and not "trade away" the possibility of tough action for concessions from North Korea.
The United Nations is facing a "moment of truth and it is extremely important that it should not be traded away for a little bit of charm," Kirby told journalists at UN headquarters in New York.
Released in February, the UN rights inquiry laid bare the brutality of the Pyongyang regime. The report detailed a vast network of prison camps and documented cases of torture, enslavement, rape and forced abortions among other violations.
The report's findings were based on weeks of public hearings during which North Korean exiles came forward to deliver accounts of horrific ordeals.
The report which Kirby said presented "believable evidence of unbelievable wrongs" sparked such an international outcry that North Korea is engaging on issues of human rights for the first time in decades.
Pyongyang produced a counter-report to the UN inquiry rebutting the evidence and has agreed to some UN reviews, although Kirby said these were limited in scope.
It also moved to reopen dialogue with South Korea for the first time in five years and yesterday, Pyongyang released US national Jeffrey Fowle who had been held for six months.
The North also invited Japanese diplomats to formally visit the country next week for the first time in a decade.
Kirby described the gestures as "crumbs thrown to the international community."
The judge said it was not a foregone conclusion that China would veto a Security Council resolution referring its ally North Korea to the ICC, noting that Beijing had shown a reluctance to use its veto in the past.
"Veto is not the way China does its diplomacy," he said.
The European Union and Japan have put forward a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly that asks the Security Council to "take appropriate action," including a possible referral of North Korea to the Hague-based court.
That referral would trigger a war crimes investigation with an opportunity to prosecute those responsible for the atrocities, which the report says were ordered by the highest level of the state.
A vote is expected at the 193-nation Assembly in late November.