UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A key U.N. committee approved a resolution Tuesday condemning North Korea's "systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights" and encouraging the Security Council to refer the country to the International Criminal Court.
In an unusual move, the General Assembly's human rights committee approved the measure sponsored by Japan and the European Union without a vote despite North Korea's vehement opposition.
North Korean Counselor Ri Song Chol told the committee before the vote that his government totally rejects the resolution as "full of lies, fabrications," calling it "an illegal and unlawful document, a plot, which is not worth ... consideration."
"In this way, we do not even fear the need to call for a vote," Ri said. "Even if this draft resolution is railroaded, it is crystal clear to everyone that this cannot be considered as a consensus."
He then urged U.N. members to oppose the adoption by dissociating their countries from the consensus, and a number did including Syria, China, Egypt, Singapore, Iran and Venezuela who said they oppose the "politicization" of human rights and resolutions singling out specific countries.
The committee's adoption of the resolution by consensus, nonetheless, virtually assures its approval by the 193-member General Assembly when it is put to a vote next month.
The draft resolution expresses "very serious concern" at continuing reports of North Korean human rights violations including torture, rape, public executions, arbitrary executions, severe restrictions on freedom of religion, expression and peaceful assembly, and the absence of due process and the rule of law.
It "strongly urges" the government to end all these abuses and immediately release all political prisoners "unconditionally."
The draft resolution expresses concern at North Korea's failure to prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses, including violations which a U.N. commission of inquiry has said may account to crimes against humanity.
It urges the Security Council to consider referring the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court and to consider sanctions against those most responsible for rights abuses.
"With this resolution the international community will again send a clear message to the DPRK regime that human rights violations must stop and that those most responsible will be held accountable," U.S. deputy ambassador Sarah Mendelson told the committee, using the initials of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho said North Korea continues to divert its limited resources to develop weapons of mass destruction in spite of the "dire humanitarian situation" in the country, where a U.N. report said 18 million of the country's 24.9 million people need assistance.
This government decision "itself is a human rights violation," he said.