The U.N. General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution denouncing North Korea’s woeful human rights situation and encouraging the U.N. Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court.
The resolution involving the ICC referral was endorsed for the second consecutive year, underscoring growing global concerns about what U.N. Human rights chief Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein recently decried as “gross” human rights violations.
Last month, the U.N.’s Third Committee in charge of human rights matters passed the resolution overwhelmingly before sending it to the General Assembly. The European Union and Japan have been seeking such human rights resolutions every year.
The adoption of the resolution Thursday came after the Security Council opened discussions on the North Korean case earlier this month for the second consecutive year.
Testifying before the Security Council, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid said that it was “essential” to refer the North Korean situation to the ICC.
“(North Korean) Victims are still unable to find judicial redress and there is still no accountability grounded in the work of an independent judiciary,” he said.
“Once again, this year, the General Assembly has called on the Security Council to take action by referring the situation in DPRK (North Korea) to the International Criminal Court, which I believe to be essential, given the scale and extreme gravity of the allegations,” he added.
The chances for the ICC referral appear to be low as China, one of the five veto-wielding powers and a traditional ally of the North, has rejected the idea. China has argued that the Security Council is not the right place to discuss human rights.
Calls for the referral of the North to the ICC surged after the U.N. Commission of Inquiry released a report on the North Korean situation early last year.
The report found evidence of torture, executions, arbitrary incarceration, deliberate starvation, enslavement and other appalling practices that the COI said amounted to “crimes against humanity.” In particular, it indicated that high-level Pyongyang officials responsible for the abuses could be referred to the ICC.
Amid the absence of any sincere actions by Pyongyang to improve its human rights conditions, activists highlighted the need to continuously shed a light on the regime’s rights violations.
“The only way to ensure that justice is done some day is to keep the spotlight on the North Korea’s government and keep collecting evidence of their crimes,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)