China indicated that it may veto the referral of North Korea to the Hague-based International Criminal Court at a UN Human Rights Council debate held in Geneva Monday.
The debate, which saw a damning report on human rights abuses in North Korea presented to the UN Human Rights Council for the first time, heard chief author Michael Kirby make an impassioned plea to UN member states to address the “scourge of human rigths violations” in North Korea.
But despite presenting findings based on testimony from hundreds of victims, defectors and witnesses, the UN Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) report on North Korea human rights violations drew sharp criticism from China, a veto-holding member of the United Nations Security Council.
“The inability of the commission to get support and cooperation from the country concerned makes it impossible for the commission to carry out its mandate in an impartial, objective and effective manner,” Chen Chuandong, a counselor at China’s mission in Geneva, said in remarks carried by Reuters on Monday.
Chen said that because the UN COI report was based on interviews and information collected outside the DPRK, questions remained over the credibility of the information used to make report conclusions.
Chen did not, however, remark on North Korea’s refusal to cooperate with the UN body, instead pointing out that the format of the UN report contradicted the UN’s principle of addressing human rights issues through “constructive dialogue”.
The U.S. in contrast welcomed the publication of the report, describing it on Monday as “excellent and comprehensive.”
But while Chinese opposition to the report had been expected in many quarters, U.S. Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea Ambassador Robert King nevertheless said Friday that he expected a resolution to be passed on North Korea’s human rights record and that such a move would be supported by Washington.
“If it can be worked out to have this debated and discussed in the Security Council, we certainly would be supportive of doing that,” King was quoted as saying by AFP on Friday.
And even if any resolution faced certain veto by China, one expert told NK News the process would still prove valuable.
“The Chinese government would veto any attempt by other Security Council members to refer Pyongyang to the ICC, but there is value in forcing them to do that in order to raise the diplomatic costs of their complicity in human rights violations against North Korean people,” Sokeel Park, a researcher at NGO Liberty in North Korea told NK News.
But the prospects for imminent action seem dim, with Kin warning Friday that the UN Security Council was too occupied with Ukraine to consider the DPRK anytime soon.
“It’s a question of can we get it on the agenda and can we have a productive discussion, and we are hopeful that we can,” King said.
Picture: R. Cunningham
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