The U.N. Human Rights Commission Thursday passed a resolution condemning North Korea for systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights. The resolution was approved easily, with 30 countries voting in favor and nine against.
The UN resolution accuses North Korea of torture, arbitrary detentions and public executions. It also criticizes the government for the cruel treatment of its citizens who have been repatriated from abroad. Efforts to leave the country, the resolution says, are treated as treason and often result in severe punishment, including death.
The resolution also expresses deep concern at the humanitarian situation in the country, in particular the prevalence of infant malnutrition. It says the government must ensure that humanitarian assistance, especially food aid, is distributed in accordance with humanitarian principles.
The resolution received strong support from the European Union, the United States and Japan. But North Korea's representative, Ri Tcheul, categorically rejected the resolution, saying it had been fabricated by hostile forces and their followers, with the aim of overthrowing the government.
"The draft resolution is full of completely false information, repeatedly fabricated since long ago and focuses on overthrowing the state system of the DPRK," he said. "The United States, which is the world's worst violator of human rights, legislated the so-called 'North Korean Human Rights Act,' as part of its attempt to stifle the DPRK on the pretext of human rights, along with the nuclear issue."
The United States, in response, called North Korea one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
In a separate resolution, the UN Human Rights Commission also denounced Cuba's human rights record. The resolution, which was co-sponsored by the European Union and the United States, passed by a vote of 21 in favor to 17 against.
The Cuban representative accused the Commission of being governed by lies and hypocrisy. He described the process as a Geneva farce and called the United States the world's greatest and most obstinate violator of human rights.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Kevin Moley, noted that the Cuba resolution passed with a larger majority than those voted on in recent years.
"One of the noteworthy facts of this was that countries that never before had voted with the United States, like Saudi Arabia. A country like Pakistan, which has always voted no, against the Cuba resolution, this year abstained which is a very positive sign. And, once again, I think it reflects the President's energy and efforts he is putting behind his push for democracy around the world," he said.
The Commission has asked for the mandate of the UN Special Investigator on Cuba to be renewed.
Meanwhile in Havana, the Cuban government called on European nations to back a Cuban-sponsored resolution calling for an independent investigation into the situation of terrorist suspects held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.