Michael Kirby, chairman of a U.N. commission of inquiry on North Korea, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, abuses were widespread in the country.
Kirby's team interviewed dozens of witnesses who relayed accounts of alleged atrocities committed by the North Korean government.
"Ordinary people were heard from who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief," he said. "Women and men who exercised their human right to leave the country and were forcibly repatriated spoke about their experiences of torture, sexual violence, inhumane treatment and arbitrary detention."
The North Korean government said Kirby's inquiry was part of a smear campaign backed by its U.S. and European adversaries.
A statement attributed to Pyongyang said "the human rights violations mentioned in the report did not exist in the country."
North Korea is suspected of placing its military above the interests of its people.
Kirby led a three-member team on a 10-day mission to interview more than 40 witnesses about the human rights situation in North Korea.