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Investigator: North Korea Rights Report Won't Be Revised

FILE - Shin Dong-Hyuk holds his earpiece as he listens during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly human rights committee on a proposal to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity, Nov. 18, 2014.

The former chairman of a U.N. panel that produced a report accusing North Korea of widespread human rights abuses said there were no plans to revise the report despite concerns over the reliability of a defector who testified.

In an e-mail response to the VOA Korean service, Michael Kirby, who headed the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI), wrote that the commission "has concluded its work and cannot add to, or subtract from, what is written.”

He was responding to questions about Shin Dong-hyuk, a prominent defector and activist, who has said his testimony about life in a North Korean gulag was partially untrue. Following Shin’s confession, Pyongyang claimed the report was “invalid” and asked the United Nations to drop resolutions on the country’s human rights records.

Kirby, a former justice of the High Court of Australia, said corrections Shin wished to make were not vital from the point of view of the entire report.

“It is only the most critical and significant variations of evidence that will justify reopening a decision," he said. “In the present case, Mr. Shin's testimony does not fall into that category."

The former COI chair also stressed that North Korea is closed off to outside examination. “Once again, I request North Korea to invite me to visit their country, to answer questions and to conduct an on-the-spot investigation,” Kirby wrote.

The report, released almost a year ago, proposed that its findings be referred to the International Criminal Court.

“It did not purport to be a prosecutor nor a court or tribunal,” concluded Kirby. “It was simply required to conduct an investigation.”

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

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