The United Nations Security Council should slap targeted sanctions on North Korean officials responsible for grave human rights abuses, the head of a special UN inquiry says.
Michael Kirby told an informal meeting of the Security Council convened by Australia, France and the US that he also wanted the reclusive regime hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.
“More monitoring and engagement alone cannot suffice in the face of crimes that shock the conscience of humanity,” said Kirby, a former Australian High Court justice. “Perpetrators must be held accountable, it is necessary to deter further crimes.”
North Korea did not send a representative and the meeting was snubbed by China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally, and Russia.
“A new generation of senior officials now surround the supreme leader Kim Jong-Un,” Kirby said.
“They must be made to understand that they will themselves face personal accountability if they join in the commission of crimes against humanity or fail to prevent them where they could.
“The commission of inquiry therefore recommends to the Security Council the adoption of targeted sanctions against those individuals most responsible for crimes against humanity.”
Kirby said the proposal to refer North Koreans to the ICC had found favour with most countries present, but UN diplomats said any move would likely face fierce opposition from China, the North’s economic lifeline.
In March, the UN’s top rights body also called on the Security Council to act against officials responsible for a litany of crimes against humanity in North Korea.
Kirby’s commission of inquiry on North Korea released a hard-hitting report on the nuclear-armed totalitarian state in February that documented a range of gross human rights abuses, including extermination, enslavement and sexual violence.
North Korea refused to co-operate with the probe and said the evidence was “fabricated” by “forces hostile” to the country.
After the meeting, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power praised council members for joining other countries for the first time to discuss the North’s “tragic human rights situation in North Korea”.
“We heard directly from the authors of a thorough, objective and credible UN report, and from victims of North Korean atrocities themselves,” she said.
“These firsthand accounts – horrific stories of torture, rape, forced abortions and forced infanticide, extermination and murder – paint a chilling picture of the regime’s systematic and remorseless repression of its citizens.”