November 27, 2012 / 5:12 PM / 5 years ago

UN committee condemns North Korea over widespread rights abuses

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A committee of the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday condemned North Korea for rampant human rights violations, while an envoy of Pyongyang dismissed the move as reflective of hostile U.S. policies.

Members of an anti-North Korea civic group prepare to release balloons containing leaflets denouncing the North's leader Kim Jong-un towards North Korea, at Imjingak pavilion near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, about 55 km (34 miles) north of Seoul, October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

The non-binding resolution was adopted by the 193-nation assembly’s Third Committee, which focuses on human rights.

It was officially passed by consensus without a vote, though North Korea, China, Syria, Iran and other developing countries made clear they rejected the conclusions of the resolution, which was drafted by the European Union and co-sponsored by the United States and a number of other Western states.

North Korean U.N. envoy Kim Song told the committee that the resolution represented “interference in our internal affairs” and constituted “an act of the state political terrorism.”

Kim also denied that there were any rights violations in North Korea.

“Human rights violations as mentioned in the draft resolution cannot exist, and not only in legal and institutional terms, but also in reality in our country,” he said. “Independent rights of our people are most valued.”

The resolution voiced “very serious concern at the persistence of continuing reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).”

It said such violations included torture, the existence of prison camps and limitations on the freedom of movement of North Korean citizens, including the punishment of those who attempt to travel abroad.

Earlier this month U.N. special rapporteur on North Korea Marzuki Darusman reiterated his concerns about rights violations in the reclusive country. He said that North Korean prison camps held between 150,000 and 200,000 prisoners.

The resolution will go to a formal vote in the General Assembly next month, where it is expected to pass again. Such assembly resolutions on the human right situations in North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, and, since last year, Syria are an annual ritual.

A delegate of China told the committee that it opposes resolutions on individual nations’ human rights records and urged United Nations members to “pay more attention to difficulties and challenges facing the DPRK (North Korea)” and focus on humanitarian aid.

The Chinese delegate also urged “certain countries” not to submit such resolutions in future.

North Korea is under U.N. Security Council sanctions for its two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Jackie Frank

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