UN slams North Korea for 'systematic' abductions of foreigners
GENEVA - Agence France-PresseThe UN Human Rights Council on March 27 harshly criticised North Korea for the "systematic abduction" of foreigners, after a UN investigation found the country had snatched up to 200,000 foreign nationals.
But the 47-member rights body's resolution was slammed by North Korean foreign ministry official Ri Hung Sik, who claimed it was a "political plot filled with frauds and distortions".
The resolution, he told the council, was "intended to bring down the system and ideology" of his country.
The adopted text decried North Korea's "systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons, including those from other countries, on a large scale and as a matter of state policy."
A UN-mandated investigation issued a searing report in February 2014 accusing North Korea of committing human rights violations "without parallel in the contemporary world", including the abductions of an estimated 200,000 foreign nationals from at least 12 countries.
Most of them were South Koreans left stranded after the 1950-1953 Korean War, but hundreds of others from around the world have since been taken or disappeared while visiting the secretive Stalinist state.
The number of Japanese citizens believed to have been taken to train North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs are now estimated "in the hundreds", the UN's top investigator on the rights situation in North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, told reporters last week.
Darusman, whose mandate was extended for another year by Friday's resolution, has called for international community to resolve the fate of the abductees, and to refer the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court.
In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens to train its spies.
Five of the abductees returned home, but Pyongyang said -- without producing credible evidence -- that the eight others had died.
Pyongyang agreed last May to reinvestigate the cases of Japanese nationals kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s in return for Tokyo lifting sanctions.
Friday's resolution said it was "expecting concrete and positive results" from that probe.
Speaking to reporters, Ri harshly criticised Japan, a co-sponsor of the resolution, for bringing up abduction issue despite knowing "the issue is under investigation".
"This issue is to be... addressed bilaterally between (North Korea) and Japan," he said.
Speaking through a translator, he acknowledged that "it is wrong to abduct the nationals of other countries", but stressed that North Korea and Japan had been "in hostile relations" when the admitted abductions took place.
He also insisted that the Japanese citizens "were abducted, not by the country authorities, but by some agencies" inside North Korea.
As for the suspected kidnappings of people from other countries, he insisted: "There were no abductions of the other nationals."
Friday's resolution also condemned the "long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations committed in... North Korea."
It called on Pyongyang to acknowledge the crimes, including suspected "crimes against humanity" and to "take immediate steps" to end all violations, and urged the international community to help bring those responsible to justice.
Last year's UN investigation heard testimony from North Korean exiles and documented a vast network of harsh prison camps holding up to 120,000 people along with cases of torture, summary executions and rape.
Pyongyang has rejected the findings, especially after one of the prominent witnesses cited in the report retracted some of his testimony.
The report "has been proven false by the testifiers themselves", Ri told the council, warning the UN was "being cheated by some double-dealers".
The United States, which co-sponsored the resolution, was not in doubt about the importance of the resolution.
North Korea "is among the world's most pervasive deniers of freedoms and violators of human rights," US ambassador Keith Harper told the council Friday.