A United Nations human rights expert has called on the U.N. Security Council to refer the North Korean human rights situation to the International Criminal Court in a push to hold the communist country’s officials accountable.
Marzuki Darusman, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, offered recommendations to improve conditions there in a report released Monday.
"Efforts must be undertaken to ensure the accountability of those responsible for human rights violations, including through referral by the Security Council of the situation in the country to the International Criminal Court," the report said.
In February 2014, the Commission of Inquiry (COI), a U.N. panel tasked with probing North Korean human rights, released a lengthy report alleging gross abuses. These included summary executions, rape, torture, forced abortions and enslavement. The chief targets were religious minorities and political dissidents detained in prison camps with up to 120,000 inmates.
That report called for prosecution at the international court, which requires action by the Security Council.
Since then, the U.N. took a series of actions against Pyongyang. Last December, the General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution calling for the Security Council to consider referring the North Korean situation to the International Criminal Court.
However, the U.N. move faced opposition by China and Russia, which have veto power on the council.
"Regrettably, the situation remains the same, despite the grave concerns reiterated by the international community in different forums," said the Darusman report.
That report called on Pyongyang to halt human rights violations immediately and dismantle all political prison camps.
It was submitted to the General Assembly recently and the special rapporteur plans to brief the General Assembly on his findings later this month.
Pyongyang rejects international criticism of its human rights records. Last week, Ri Su Yong, North Korea’s Foreign Minister, dismissed the criticism as a "smear campaign" against his country in his speech to the General Assembly.
The criticism against North Korea comes amid heightened tension on the Korean peninsula over Pyongyang’s threats to conduct a long-range rocket launch and nuclear test.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.