North Korea target of U.N. rights probe

Aug. 16, 2013 at 1:22 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A U.N. team tasked with assessing human rights in North Korea said the government wasn't cooperating with its investigation.

Former Australian jurist Michael Kirby leads a delegation to Seoul next week to interview witnesses and North Korean citizens who fled the country.

"We have asked to visit [North Korea] and we have also taken steps to reach out to the government to seek their participation in the hearings, so far to no avail," he said in a statement Friday.

He said he was leading the team with no preconceptions in mind regarding the rights situation in North Korea.

The United Nations said it was seeking information about allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, the right to food, arbitrary detentions and any violations associated with prison camps.

Human Rights Watch said as many as 200,000 people are in the North Korean gulag system. The rights organization said North Korea has hidden a system of systematic abuses behind "bluster and defiance."

"We are determined to shed light on the different aspects of various alleged human rights violations," Kirby said. "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."

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