UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Cuba is challenging a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly on human rights in North Korea, seeking to cut key language about a referral to the International Criminal Court that has Pyongyang nervous.
The draft amendment obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press warns that such language sets "a dangerous precedent that could be applied in the future against any developing country."
North Korea has been shaken this year by a groundbreaking U.N. commission of inquiry report that detailed widespread human rights abuses in the impoverished but nuclear-armed country and warned that leader Kim Jong Un could be held accountable.
The General Assembly resolution drafted by the European Union and Japan has more than 50 co-sponsors, but Cuba's proposal is aimed at gaining the support of developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. Some have bristled at the idea of country-specific resolutions, worrying that they could be targeted, too.
A North Korean official who answered the phone at that country's mission said he didn't know how many countries were backing Cuba's amendment and wasn't able to comment further. The phone rang unanswered at Cuba's mission Wednesday afternoon.
Japanese Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa told the AP that "for sure" the EU-Japan resolution has more support among U.N. member states.
Yoshikawa also rejected North Korea's recent efforts to try to get the language on the ICC referral removed in exchange for allowing a visit by the U.N. special rapporteur on North Korea or even the new U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
"This should not be linked as a bargain or a negotiation," the ambassador said.
The EU-Japan resolution, which is expected to face a vote in the General Assembly's human rights committee on Tuesday, would need the support of a simple majority to move to the full 193-member body. But if the amendment makes it to a vote and gets a simple majority, the resolution would be changed.
Lobbying for both approaches is now under way. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and six other groups this week wrote to U.N. member states urging their support for the resolution, saying it "is the best way for the international community to encourage North Korea to make genuine progress in its respect for human rights."
The resolution, which would be non-binding, echoes the recommendations of the U.N. commission of inquiry report, saying the U.N. Security Council should refer North Korea's human rights situation to the ICC.
China, North Korea's top ally and a permanent council member, has signaled it would veto such a move, but Pyongyang has been unnerved by the idea that its young leader could face prosecution.
Cuba's proposed amendment calls instead for a human rights dialogue between North Korea and other states, a visit by the U.N. special rapporteur to North Korea and technical cooperation between Pyongyang and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.