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North Korean rights committee visits Japan

Aug. 23, 2013 at 11:12 AM

TOKYO, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- A U.N. panel of inquiry said Friday it was interviewing people in Japan to determine if North Korea is responsible for any human rights violations.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on North Korea said investigators were in Tokyo to investigate Japanese abductions by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s. The United Nations said it's been able to verify at least 17 such abductions.

"We are determined to shed light on all aspects of the various alleged human rights violations," commission Chairman Michael Kirby said in a statement Friday. "To the extent that we establish that such violations have occurred, we will also seek to determine whether crimes against humanity have occurred and who bears responsibility among different state institutions and officials in North Korea."

The commission kicked off several days of public meetings this week starting in Seoul. The commission said it was mandated to investigate claims of torture, religious persecution, prison camps and a wide-range of other alleged human rights abuses.

North Korea is suspected of prioritizing military spending to the detriment of the civilian population.

"Lacking direct access to [North Korea], we are still able to gather numerous first-hand accounts from people who have managed to leave the country in recent years," Kirby said.

Japan co-sponsored the March resolution with the European Union that established the commission in the U.N. Human Rights Council.

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