March 9, 2015 / 12:12 PM / 3 years ago

U.N. expert wants North Korea held to account for abductions

A security guard walks past the United Nations logo at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, August 31, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations human rights investigator on Monday recommended international pressure be put on North Korea to clarify the fate of hundreds of foreign nationals allegedly abducted over decades, mainly from Japan and South Korea.

Marzuki Darusman, an independent expert, laid out the strategy in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council and said that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague was “competent for prosecuting these perpetrators”.

“The strategy aims at eventually shedding light on all cases of abductions and enforced disappearances allegedly committed by agents from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Darusman, Indonesia’s former attorney-general, said.

“Achieving closure and accountability for the abductions ... is the ultimate goal of this strategy,” he said.

The report is due for debate next Monday at the 47-member forum where Japan and the European Union are also expected to present a resolution denouncing political prison camps and other crimes in North Korea and seeking renewal of Darusman’s mandate.

A U.N. commission of inquiry, in a major report a year ago, found that since 1950 North Korea had engaged in the “systematic abduction” of foreign nationals “on a large scale and as a matter of state policy”.

Darusman was part of the investigation that called these and other abuses crimes against humanity. North Korea’s record remains on the U.N. Security Council’s agenda, but the issue has not yet been referred to the ICC prosecutor.

Darusman said that North Korean agents had abducted “hundreds of nationals from South Korea, Japan and other countries between the 1960s and 1980s”. Since the 1990s, North Korea is believed to have kidnapped people from China, including nationals of China, South Korea and a former Japanese national, he said.

Japan’s national police agency is looking into 881 possible abduction cases blamed on North Korea over the years, he said, regretting that bilateral talks have been “stalled for several months” by Pyongyang.

The U.N. inquiry had also recorded abductions of nationals of Lebanon, Malaysia, Romania, Singapore and Thailand, he said.

Darusman also denounced what he called an “ongoing serious problem” of North Korean citizens who flee to China but are sent back to their homeland, in breach of international refugee law.

He urged North Korea to engage in dialogue on human rights and allow him to visit, noting: “This posture of isolation is no longer sustainable.”

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, addressing the Geneva forum last week, again rejected the findings of last year’s U.N. inquiry as being “politically motivated”.

Editing by Louise Ireland

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