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Ex-U.N. official: North Korean caste system is the new apartheid

Momentum is gathering at the United Nations after the European Union presented a draft resolution on North Korea human rights.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Koreans construct a small building on the banks of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, across the Yalu from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. A former U.N. human rights commisioner said North Korea’s caste system discriminates against its own population, and is a new example of apartheid. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/dd888fda2c984658d3448dd249185756/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
North Koreans construct a small building on the banks of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, across the Yalu from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. A former U.N. human rights commisioner said North Korea’s caste system discriminates against its own population, and is a new example of apartheid. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- A former United Nations commissioner of human rights said violations in North Korea are so egregious there is no parallel for such abuses in the modern world.

Navi Pillay told an audience in Seoul that North Korea's caste system discriminates against its own population and is a new example of apartheid, Voice of America reported. Pillay said North Korea should eliminate its "Songbun," or caste system, and release the tens of thousands of political prisoners who are serving sentences after receiving unfair trials.

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North Korea slammed the U.N. in September for its plans to discuss Pyongyang's human rights record, and claimed the evidence of rights abuses is "nothing more than lies from North Korean defectors, whose testimonies cannot be corroborated."

Despite protests from Pyongyang, member states of the European Union said Thursday they plan to present a draft resolution on North Korean human rights to the U.N. General Assembly by the end of October. South Korean outlet Newsis reported the announcement offers a preview of the extensive discussion of North Korea human rights abuses expected to be held before the end of the year.

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The Austrian foreign ministry told press that the European Union and Japan submitted a draft resolution in September, during the 70th annual U.N. General Assembly. The ministry said it recommends the referral of the North Korea human rights situation to the International Criminal Court.

Last December, the General Assembly requested the Security Council consider referring the North Korean situation to the ICC.

Kim Jong Un, however, would not necessarily be the target of any cases brought before the International Criminal Court. A U.N. source who spoke to VOA on the condition of anonymity said that the purpose of any court case would not be to pin blame on Kim Jong Un. That would be an "unreasonable interpretation," the source said.

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