UN Inquiry Chief Rejects N. Korean 'Charm Offensive'

A judge who led a United Nations inquiry into North Korea's human rights record says the North should be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court for its dismal human rights record.

Retired Australian Judge Michael Kirby spoke to reporters Wednesday in New York, ahead of a decision next month by a U.N. committee on whether to refer Pyongyang to the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity.

The European Union and Japan have circulated a draft resolution to a General Assembly rights committee that seeks a possible referral to the Hague-based Court.  

Kirby referred to recent North Korean concessions, including the release Tuesday of American Jeffrey Fowle, as part of a "charm offensive" aimed at diverting attention from what the international community sees as a long history of rights abuses by the North.

In February, a U.N. Commission of Inquiry submitted a report concluding Pyongyang is guilty of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, enslavement and rape.  Many of those crimes are alleged to have occurred in the North's notorious prison camps, where tens of thousands of people are believed to be jailed.

Earlier this month, North Korean envoys sought to defend Pyongyang's rights record, saying there are no such camps.  

But foreign ministry official Choe Myong Nam acknowledged the existence of what he called "reform-through-labor" detention centers.  He said people held in those facilities become "improved through their mentality and look upon their wrongdoings."