The UN is preparing to confront North Korea over its dismal rights record with a key vote this week that could compel Pyongyang to answer to crimes against humanity.
A UN General Assembly committee is to vote tomorrow on a resolution drafted by the EU and Japan condemning human rights abuses in North Korea and calling for a war crimes probe.
While North Korea often features on the roster of resolutions targeting pariah states, the latest text has been the focus of intense diplomacy over provisions that could see the Pyongyang regime in the dock at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The resolution draws heavily from a UN report released in February that detailed a vast network of prison camps and provided accounts of torture, summary executions and rape, mostly from testimony given by North Korean exiles.
Responsibility for these crimes lies at the highest level of the state, according to the report, which concluded that the atrocities amounted to crimes against humanity.
The landmark report stirred alarm in Pyongyang, which launched a diplomatic offensive to ensure the key provisions urging the UN Security Council to refer Pyongyang to the Hague-based ICC are scrapped.
Rushing to North Korea’s defense, Cuba last week tabled an amendment — that will also be put to a vote — cutting all references to the ICC and instead encouraging cooperation through fact-finding visits and talks with the UN rights office.
Diplomats said the Cuba amendment could garner support in particular from African countries that have bristled at the ICC’s focus on African war crimes cases.
To counter Cuba’s move, the EU presented a new text on Friday by the EU with a provision welcoming cooperation on rights with North Korea, but maintaining the call for a probe of crimes against humanity.
Supporters of the EU-Japan text, cosponsored by 48 countries, are hoping for a strong vote of support to push the council into taking action against Pyongyang.
After the vote in the Third Committee, the resolution will go to the General Assembly next month, but it would still remain an open question if the council will follow up on the resolution and refer North Korea to the ICC, with China and Russia expected to oppose such a move.
Pyongyang has made clear that cooperation on rights is conditional on dropping the threat of ICC prosecution outlined in the resolution.
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