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UN to discuss North Korea human rights abuses

The United Nations Security Council is to discuss human rights in North Korea following accusations of abuses comparable to Nazi-era atrocities. The issue was last discussed a year ago.

The UN Security Council will hold a meeting on Thursday (December 10) to discuss North Korea's human rights violations.

The talks, which would be only the second time that such a session has been held, comes despite objections from Pyongyang's biggest ally, China.

Nine council members, the US, Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Britain called for the session.

The planned meeting follows last year's release of a UN commission of inquiry report which concluded that North Korea was committing rights violations "without parallel in the contemporary world." Rights groups have also accused the North of similar violations.

The UN report described how human rights abuses were comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

Next steps

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly urged the Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague following the report of wide-ranging abuses. The resolution is due to be voted on later this month.

"We believe it is critical for the council to continue to shine a light on the abuses in North Korea and speak regularly about the DPRK's (North Korea's) human rights situation - and what we can do to change it," US Ambassador Samantha Power said this week.

In his latest report, UN special rapporteur Marzuki Darusman said there had been no improvement in the dire human rights situation over the past year.

Pyongyang continues to operate prison camps on a large scale and resorts to widespread use of summary executions, torture and arbitrary detentions to impose a "near-total denial of human rights," he said.

Will Beijing block?

China called a procedural vote to try to block last year's meeting, but the majority of council members supported the move and the meeting went ahead.

It remains unclear whether China would seek again to hold a vote to register its disagreement.

Beijing is likely to veto any Security Council bid to refer North Korea to the ICC.

Pyongyang has denied allegations of systematic human rights abuses, accusing the US of trying to destabilize the country.

mm/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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