An anxious North Korea was yesterday to see how the boldest effort yet to bring its leaders to account for alleged crimes against humanity would move forward, as the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee voted on a resolution that demands the country’s referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The vote follows a groundbreaking UN commission of inquiry report on North Korea early this year that declared the country’s human rights situation “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror.”
Based on interviews with dozens of people who had fled the country, the report detailed abuses including starvation and a system of harsh prison camps containing up to 120,000 people.
The mere possibility that young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could be targeted by prosecutors has led the impoverished but nuclear-armed North Korea on a surprising campaign to promote its rights record — described by a Pyongyang envoy in a rare appearance last month as “the politics of love for the people” — and to dangle hints of cooperation, including a possible visit by the UN human rights chief.
However, a yesterday’s vote approached, North Korea increasingly focused on simply removing the language about an ICC referral. On Monday, the country’s deputy ambassador moved from seat to seat during a human rights committee meeting on other issues, focusing on potential allies.
“We will see,” North Korean Deputy Ambassador to the UN Ri Tong-il said of his country’s chances, between chats with Russia, Indonesia, Nicaragua and several African nations.
The non-binding draft resolution sponsored by the EU and Japan calls on the UN Security Council to refer North Korea’s situation to the ICC.
Permanent council member China has signaled that it would veto such a move, but China-North Korea ties are no longer as tight.
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