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Calls for major N Korean rights probe

UN and activists say human rights must be investigated

Mike MacLachlan, Bangkok

January 16, 2013

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Rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide delivered a letter to the British Foreign Minister William Hague on Tuesday calling for the British government to back a United Nations inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea.

Delivered on behalf of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), an umbrella group of more than 40 rights organizations worldwide, the letter adds pressure on Pyongyang, following Monday’s call by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanathem Pillay, for an international inquiry.

The CSW letter asks Britain to support calls for “an international, independent inquiry mandated by the UN … to ascertain if there are, prima facie, sufficient grounds to view [North Korea’s human rights] violations as crimes under international law.”

On Monday, the upper chamber of the British parliament, the House of Lords, is scheduled to discuss North Korea’s dismal human rights record in a debate tabled by Catholic rights campaigner Lord Alton of Liverpool.

The regime in Pyongyang has for years evaded UN efforts to address its human rights record, repeatedly refusing entry to special envoys charged with assessing the situation while accusing the world body of persecution.

On Monday, UN commissioner Pillay appeared to lose patience with North Korea in slamming the regime's lack of progress while warning that the ongoing nuclear issue should not deter from efforts to address human rights.

“There were some initial hopes that the advent of a new leader might bring about some positive change in the human rights situation in DPRK,” said Pillay. “But a year after Kim Jong-un became the country’s new supreme leader, we see almost no sign of improvement.”

North Korea is believed to hold between 150,000 and 200,000 people in gulags dotted across the country where inmates are routinely beaten and executed in front of their own families, according to testimonies from the few people who have escaped.

Mixed reports last year suggested one of these camps may have been closed although as many as 27,000 may have died from starvation with the remaining survivors relocated to another camp.

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