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North Korea atrocities 'truly appalling,' UN Security Council told

There has been no improvement in human rights abuses committed by North Korea, a special meeting of the UN Security Council has heard. China and four other nations failed to stop the briefing from going ahead.

North Korea continues to commit severe human rights violations on an immense scale, the UN Security Council has been told.

The council met on Friday for its third briefing specifically on North Korea since a UN Commission of Inquiry in 2014 accused Pyongyang of long-standing and systematic human rights abuses, including torture, execution and starvation.

It also marked the third time that China tried - and failed - to stop the meeting from happening. This year Russia, Angola, Egypt and Venezuela joined Beijing in voting to scrap the meeting, but it went ahead after nine of the council's 15 members - including Britain, France and the US - voted in favor of it.

"There has been no improvement in the truly appalling human rights violations in the country," said the UN's assistant secretary-general for human rights, Andrew Gilmour.

UN officials have spoken to more than 100 North Korean defectors over the past year, Gilmour said.

China, North Korea's sole ally, argued Pyongyang's human rights situation did not pose a threat to global peace and security, and discussing it at the council was unnecessary and would only serve to heighten tensions.

"The Security Council is not a forum for discussing human rights issues and still less for the politicization of the human rights issues," said Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi.

US Ambassador Samantha Power, a major force in keeping North Korea on the council's agenda, criticized Beijing's position.

"It stretches credulity, really, to suggest...that the brutal governance practiced by the regime is neutral for international peace and security," Power said.

"As we've seen in other parts of the world, when governments flagrantly violate the human rights of their own people, they almost always show similar disdain for the international norms that help ensure our shared security."

Pyongyang atrocities

A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found evidence that crimes against humanity were being perpetrated by the North Korean regime. It said that up to 120,000 people were being held in prison camps in the country.

The commission's chairman, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, told DW after the report was published that he was disturbed by its findings.

"I didn't expect the baseness of the conduct that was revealed by the testimony, and certainly not the intensity of the suffering which was brought to our notice, especially in relation to the prison camps, but also in relation to starvation, to the fact that even today, about 27 percent of babies born in North Korea are seriously stunted, seriously malnourished," Kirby said. 

The report called on the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), something unlikely to succeed given China's veto power in the council.

Last month, the UN imposed tougher sanctions on Pyongyang in response to a nuclear test in September.

jr/bw (dpa, AFP)

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