North Korea wants human rights conference cancelled 

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Feb.17, Seoul: North Korea says it will respond very strongly to a conference in Washington on Tuesday about its widespread human rights abuses and says that the United states ignored Pyongyang’s offer to attend and defend itself. The conference is part of a broader plan by human rights organizations to increase pressure on Pyongyang to dismantle its repressive system of political prisons.

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Jang II Hun told reporters on Monday that his country has asked the U.S. government to immediately scrap the so-called conference, hosted by the non-profit Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

While efforts have stalled in the United Nations to prosecute North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court, the issue is not fading away.  

Phil Robertson with the independent organization Human Rights Watch said that his group was planning a number of ways to publicly shame Pyongyang over its human rights violations even if North Korea’s allies on the U.N. Security Council block any punitive action.

“Of course that may be the case, because of course China and Russia are still there, they still have veto authority, then we may have to search for an ad hoc international accountability mechanism,” said Robertson.

International pressure has been intensifying on Pyongyang since the release of a U.N. report last year documenting a network of political prisons in North Korea and atrocities that include murder, enslavement, and torture. 

While the U.N. Security Council has not voted to prosecute North Korea, it did vote last December to put the issue on its agenda. Human rights advocates said that this procedural vote was a major victory because once the issue is on Security Council’s agenda it can be brought up again at any time.

This week the Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies is holding a public conference on human rights in the North Korea.

But human rights organizations and the United Nations are not backing down. In March, the U.N. Human Rights Council will meet in Geneva and hold a session on North Korea. Also this year the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will open an office based in Seoul to focus on the human rights situation in nuclear-armed communist North Korea.

The Oslo Times

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