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(Geneva) – The UN Human Rights Council sent a clear message on March 28, 2014 that North Korean leaders should be brought to justice through Security Council action.

The Human Rights Council, in a resolution, endorsed the report of its Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, released on March 17, which found that crimes against humanity have been committed for decades under policies established at the highest level of the North Korean government. The council urged the UN General Assembly to formally submit the report to the Security Council. The resolution said that the Security Council should refer North Korea to an international criminal court for possible prosecutions of its leaders, and to consider imposing targeted sanctions against those most responsible for abuses.

“The Human Rights Council’s response to the Commission of Inquiry findings is a total game changer for the UN’s relations with North Korea,” said Julie de Rivero, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “Now the UN Security Council and the General Assembly need to determine how to bring North Korea’s leaders to justice for their human rights crimes.”

The Commission of Inquiry concluded that the  crimes committed in North Korea include extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, and imprisonment; rape, forced abortion, and other sexual violence; persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds; the forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearances and knowingly causing prolonged starvation.

The resolution was adopted by 30 votes against 6, with 11 abstentions. The resolution condemned violations in North Korea in the strongest terms and called on the UN to establish a field-based structure to continue monitoring and raising public awareness about the human rights situation in North Korea.

“The Commission of Inquiry has concluded its work and now passed the baton to the larger United Nations system, which needs to continue to fulfil its responsibility to document and expose rights abuses in North Korea,” de Rivero said. “There should be no let-up in international pressure for justice in North Korea to ensure that victims’ suffering will never be forgotten.”

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