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Major Conference on N. Korean Rights Set for February

  • Lee Yeon Cheol

FILE - Kim Ju Song, a member of the North Korean delegation, listens to a panel discussion about human rights abuses in North Korea at U.N. headquarters in New York, Oct. 22, 2014.

FILE - Kim Ju Song, a member of the North Korean delegation, listens to a panel discussion about human rights abuses in North Korea at U.N. headquarters in New York, Oct. 22, 2014.

A large-scale conference on North Korea’s human rights situation is scheduled to take place in Washington next month, according to a U.S.-based rights group.

Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, has told VOA's Korean service that the all-day event will be held February 17.

“We plan on having a major human rights conference hosted by CSIS [the Center for Strategic and International Studies], co-hosted with our organization, with [South Korea's] Yonsei University and the Bush Institute," he said.

The event will take place on the one-year anniversary of a report released by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

That report details wide-ranging abuses in North Korea, including prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

News of the conference followed word that a key witnesses, North Korean defector Shin Dong-hyuk, has admitted that parts of his testimony about his life in North Korean prison camps were untrue.

North Korea, which has long denounced the report, is using the admission to cast doubt on the credibility of the U.N. findings.

Commission Chairman Michael Kirby, who is scheduled to attend the gathering in Washington, said the admission of false testimony by Shin does not affect the credibility of the final report.

Last month, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution calling on the Security Council to consider referring Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The Security Council has agreed to take up the issue.

In addition to Kirby, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, and Serbian human rights campaigner Sonja Biserko are expected to attend next month's conference.

South Korea’s human rights ambassador, Lee Jung-hoon, will also speak at the event, as will North Korean defectors residing in South Korea and the United States. Shin will not appear at the conference.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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