The chief United Nations investigator probing human rights abuses in North Korea is urging the world body to refer official findings on conditions in the reclusive communist state to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

Michael Kirby, who heads the U.N. commission probing North Korea for crimes against humanity, delivered the recommendation Thursday at an informal meeting of the 15-member Council in New York.

A year-long inquiry led by Kirby concluded earlier this year that North Korean officials "at the highest level of state" had engaged in crimes against humanity "that do not have any parallel in the contemporary world." It went on to say the North had tortured and enslaved its people while systematically exterminating its opponents.

Veto-wielding Council members China and Russia snubbed Thursday's meeting, however, and analysts are cautioning against expectations for rapid progress on Kirby's recommendations.

In a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that accompanied Kirby's February 17 report, the investigator warned Mr. Kim that he may be held personally responsible for crimes against humanity in his country.

For its part, China told the Human Rights Council in Geneva last month that the inquiry's findings were unfounded and its recommendations "divorced from reality."

Pyongyang also flatly rejected the findings, saying they were based on fake material backed by the United States, the European Union and Japan.