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UN highlights possible human rights charges against Kim Jong Un

The UN has warned the North Korean leader that he could face charges for crimes against humanity, after a report highlighted serious abuses. Rights groups have demanded action from the Security Council.

The chairman of the three-member UN commission of inquiry, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, issued a direct warning in a letter on Monday to accompany the 372-page report documenting widespread atrocities.

In his direct appeal to the North Korean leader, Kirby urged Kim to "take all reasonable measures" to stop crimes against humanity from being committed, and to investigate past abuses. A failure to do so, he said, could result in referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"The Commission wishes to draw your attention that it will therefore recommend that the United Nations refer the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the International Criminal Court to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself," the letter said.

Kirby said the government's totalitarian, top-down structure made it impossible not to include Kim, who has led the country for just over two years, in the list of suspects.

"Even without being directly involved in crimes against humanity, a military commander may be held responsible for crimes against humanity committed by forces under the commander's effective command and control," Kirby wrote.

The investigative commission's report is an indictment of North Korea for policies including the detention of up to 120,000 people in political prison camps, where starvation and torture were said to be commonplace. Also highlighted are state-sponsored abductions of Korean, Japanese and other nationals.

"They are wrongs that shock the conscience of humanity," Kirby said, comparing the abuses with Nazi atrocities during World War II.

'Fabricated by enemies'

North Korean officials did not cooperate with the report, the findings of which Pyongyang on Monday said it "categorically and totally" rejected. North Korean officials said the evidence had been fabricated by hostile forces with the backing of the US, European Union and Japan.

Kirby also repeated a warning to China, North Korea's main regional ally, that it could be "aiding and abetting crimes against humanity" by sending migrants and defectors from North Korea back to the country, where they faced torture or execution.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing would oppose any move to refer North Korean officials to the ICC.

The rights group Amnesty called for the UN Security Council to increase pressure on North Korea. "The gravity and nature of human rights violations are off the scale," said Amnesty East Asia research director Roseann Rife.

The group Human Rights Watch said it hoped the report would alert the Security Council to the scale of the atrocities.

rc/jr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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