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UN calls for pursuing N Korea criminal responsibility on rights

North Korea's leadership should be held criminally responsible for egregious human rights abuses, a UN envoy said today.

Tokyo: North Korea's leadership should be held criminally responsible for egregious human rights abuses, a UN envoy said today.

The United Nations has slammed the isolated nation for rights violations, detailing what it described as horrific abuses, including state-sponsored abductions, in a 2014 report.

Marzuki Darusman, the UN special envoy for human rights in North Korea, told reporters it is "imperative to pursue criminal responsibility" of the country's leaders to improve rights.

But Darusman added that he could not currently say who among the country's top officials bears such responsibility. "I'd refrain from mentioning any name as we need to build up the basis for proper prosecution," he said, adding various institutions, including governments and the UN, are now in the process of identifying the officials.

But Darusman did cite the country's leader Kim Jong-Un as being what he described as "politically responsible" for the dire human rights situation.

The envoy will report his findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in March, before the end of his tenure in July. Darusman was involved in the 2014 report, which prompted the UN Security Council to formally take up the human rights situation there.

The special envoy also criticised state-sponsored abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea, saying solving the issue is "a matter of urgency."

"Abduction, as a form of enforced disappearance, is a continuous crime, which does not end until the victim's family learns of the whereabouts of their loved one and, where possible, the survivors are immediately returned to their families," said Darusman.

During his five-day mission, which ended Friday, the envoy met with members of Japanese families whose children and siblings were kidnapped by North Koreans. North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had dispatched agents to kidnap 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s who were tasked with training its spies in Japanese language and customs.

Five of the abductees were allowed to return to Japan but Pyongyang has insisted, without producing solid evidence, the eight others are dead. Suspicions persist in Japan that many more of its citizens have been abducted than officially recognised. The lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries, along with Pyongyang's pariah status internationally over its nuclear and missile programme, have hampered progress on the issue.