UN council's call for action on North Korea human rights abuses welcomed

In this file photo, people stand in front of a giant statue of Kim Il Sung on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, North Korea, to pay respect to the late North Korean leader(AP)

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on Friday calling upon the UN Security Council to take action on widespread human rights abuses being perpetrated in North Korea.

The closed off communist country is accused by the council of committing "ongoing and systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations".

These include "the denial of the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion".

The resolution says that the body of information received by the council "provides reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed".

A key recommendation of the council is the referral of North Korea to an "international criminal justice mechanism".

The resolution follows the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, which detailed human rights abuses in the country.

Presenting the final report to the council last week, commission chair Justice Michael Kirby said it was the duty of the UN to "address the scourge of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea".

CSW and the Jubilee Campaign, in a joint oral statement to the council, said: "The clear and unambiguous evidence of the wide range of crimes against humanity being committed in the DPRK, and the near certainty of command responsibility, demand an equally clear response.

"The blood and the tears and what is left of the dignity of the North Korean people cry out to us. We must act."

CSW's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers welcomed the resolution, saying that the human rights violations being committed in North Korea were "unparallelled".

He appealed to church leaders in particular to speak out on the plight of Christians and the wider population in North Korea.

"Christianity is considered a particularly severe threat, with the result that Christians are prohibited from practising their religion," he said.

"We call on Christians and church leaders worldwide, including Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, to pray for and speak out on behalf of the suffering people of North Korea, and especially on behalf of Christians in the country, who are among the most persecuted in the world."

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Hugo Swire also welcomed the resolution and its recommendation that a criminal justice mechanism fully investigate North Korea.

He said: "I want to acknowledge the work of the Commission of Inquiry in fulfilling their mandate and the courage of those who gave their testimony, notwithstanding the potential risks for them and their loved ones. Together they have provided the substance for the strongest resolution the international community has passed on this issue to date."

He continued: "Equally importantly, this resolution spells out clearly to those responsible for human rights violations and crimes against humanity that they will not escape being held to account for their actions. There will be no more impunity for these most serious of crimes."