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Pillay wants rights probe of North Korea

Jan. 14, 2013 at 12:13 PM

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- An independent inquiry into the human rights situation in North Korea is justified and long overdue, the top U.N. human rights official said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in a statement Monday, said she was frustrated the reclusive regime in Pyongyang has continuously refused to cooperate with human rights investigators.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took power in December 2011 following the death of his father and former leader Kim Jong Il. A New Year's speech by the younger Kim was seen as conciliatory, though Pillay said much of the attention on the regime has focused almost exclusively on its controversial nuclear program.

"There were some initial hopes that the advent of a new leader might bring about some positive change in the human rights situation in DPRK," she said in a statement. "But a year after Kim Jong Un became the country's new supreme leader, we see almost no sign of improvement."

She described the country's human rights record as "deplorable," adding there may be as much as 200,000 people held in the country's political prison camps.

"I believe an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst -- but least understood and reported -- human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue," she said in a statement.

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