03:38 GMT05 August 2020
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    The UN Security Council's discussion of North Korea's human rights record on Monday subjected the country to intense criticism from the US and its allies, leaving observers including China worried that the fallout may lead to an escalation of tensions.

    MOSCOW, December 24 (Sputnik) — The UN Security Council's meeting on North Korea's human rights record on Monday put the country under intense criticism from the US and its allies, leaving China worried that the fallout may result in an escalation in tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

    United States UN Ambassador Samantha Power said that North Korea was getting its comeuppance. "Given the threat they pose to peace and security, they have been going outside the scrutiny of the UN Security Council for far too long." She noted that the "human rights violations" in the country "are among the worst in the world," and that they are "widespread" and "systemic".

    The UN Commission of Inquiry report, drafted earlier this year, was used as the basis for the discussion. It featured eyewitness testimony from North Korean refugees to catalogue a series of violations, ranging from the absence of commonly accepted human rights to "unspeakable atrocities". These included the absence of due process, arbitrary detention, deliberate starvation, the extensive use of forced labor, public executions, rape and torture.

    The US Ambassador described the testimony of a former prison guard who spoke of guards "routinely raping prisoners." In one case, Power noted that "a victim became pregnant and gave birth [and] prison officials cooked her baby and fed it to their dogs."

    UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic described the "extensive charge-sheet of international crimes" to have documented "a totalitarian system that is characterized by brutally enforced denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association," The Japan Times noted.

    Power tied US anger over the report's revelations to the hacking attack carried out against Sony Pictures last month, which led to the pulling of the film 'The Interview' from national release. "Not content with denying freedom of expression to its own people, the North Korean regime now seems intent on suppressing the exercise of this fundamental freedom in our nation," Japan Times quoted Power as saying. "It's exactly the kind of behavior we have come to expect from a regime that threatened to take 'merciless countermeasures' against the US over a Hollywood comedy, and has no qualms about holding tens of thousands of people in harrowing gulags," Reuters reported.

    North Korea Denies Veracity of Report, Attacks US Double Standards

    Kim Song, political counsellor to the North Korean mission at the UN, stated that the rights report was "fabricated on the basis of plots, lies and misinformation and forced by the United States and other hostile countries in a high-handed and arbitrary manner." He expressed that North Korea does not believe that the establishment of human rights norms is part of the Security Council's mandate, and added that "the United States always uses the issue of human rights as a political weapon to bring pressure on our country," Reuters explained.

    Earlier this week, North Korean Ambassador to the UN Ja Song Nam had stressed that US, rather than North Korean rights violations were the bigger threat to world peace. "The recently revealed CIA torture crimes committed by the United States, which have been conducted worldwide in the most brutal medieval forms, are the gravest human rights violations in the world," he noted. The ambassador added that "the so-called 'human rights issue' in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is politically fabricated and, therefore, it is not at all relevant to regional or international peace and security."

    For his part, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang stated that "the Security Council is not a forum for discussing human rights issues," adding that the Council "should refrain from doing anything that might cause an escalation." The spokesman noted that human rights issues should be referred to the Human Rights Council instead. Russian UN Ambassador Vitali Churkin also expressed his doubts over the basis for the meeting, telling reporters last week that "if they have the meeting, I won't be heartbroken over it, but I think it's improper to do it at the Security Council."

    In the lead-up to Monday's discussion, the UN General Assembly had voted in favor of referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity. Qin Gang noted that "to refer human rights issues to the International Criminal Court will by no means solve the problems," suggesting that China may veto the motion.

    The decision to put North Korea's human rights situation on the Security Council's agenda was made last month at the initiative of the United States, South Korea, and several European countries. It is the first time since 2006 that a country's human rights record has been discussed at the Council, which mostly focuses on international peace and security-related issues.


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