A U.N. probe into human rights in North Korea on Tuesday called on the reclusive country to open its doors and allow on-site inspections despite Pyongyang labeling it a “plot to ignite inter-Korean confrontation.”
The three-member Commission of Inquiry chaired by retired Australian justice Michael Kirby wrapped up its first, 10-day mission to the South, which included hearings of testimony chiefly from North Korean defectors.
More than 40 witnesses testified throughout the five-day event on public executions, torture, abductions and other atrocities believed to be taking place at the communist country’s infamous political camps and elsewhere.
“The testimony stands in such a way that it is believable, it is repeated, it is highly specific, and in some cases by reference to satellite images, it is supported by apparently incontestable objective evidence ― it points all in one direction,” Kirby said, while stressing that no final conclusion has been reached.
|Michael Kirby. (Yonhap News)|
“But at the moment it is not answered by the government of North Korea and no attempts have been made to provide an answer, though such an opportunity was provided.”
The U.N. Human Rights Council last March approved its first-ever formal inquiry mechanism into North Korea. Its two other members are U.N. Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia and Sonja Biserko, founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia.
With a one-year term, the commission is required to present an interim report to the General Assembly next month, and their final recommendations to the 47-nation council in March. It is also expected to collect testimony in Japan, Thailand, the U.S. and the U.K.
Just before the panel’s news conference, the North’s official media slammed its activity here and accused the South of “dashing cold water” over the thawing mood in cross-border ties.
“Bringing up North Korean human rights issue again and creating a fuss is to break the atmosphere for dialogue,” the Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary.
“If (the South) does not recognize the other side’s different ideology and system and continues hostile acts including condemnation, not only inter-Korean relations but also the situation on the Korean Peninsula will deteriorate once again.”
Though he said he was yet to see the report, Kirby countered by saying that the “best way” for Pyongyang to defend its corner is to provide evidence and grant access, vowing an independent probe.
The commission has already made requests for access, including a formal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but Kirby has said the response was “negative.”
“We are not prosecutors, we’re not here to make a case,” he said.
“Our job is to inquire and find facts, draw conclusions from those facts and make recommendations, and all these will be reported to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly of the U.N.”
“The best way for North Korea to respond … is to open its doors, give access, provide an opportunity for an independent body like us to inspect the facilities, speak to the citizens, and that’s the way the international community expects the member of the U.N. to operate in the age of universal human rights.”’
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org