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UN rights body condemns North Korea

The United Nations' human rights committee has unanimously condemned the "systematic, widespread and grave" human rights abuses in North Korea, citing its reported use of torture, the death penalty for political and religious reasons and numerous political prison camps.

A resolution which calls on North Korea to immediately put an end to all human rights abuses in the country was adopted by consensus by the committee, which includes all 193 UN member states. It now goes to the General Assembly for final approval next month, which is virtually certain.

North Korean diplomat Kim Song vehemently rejected the resolution, which was sponsored by the European Union and Japan, saying it was "politically motivated" and promoted by the United States and its followers "in their attempt to achieve their goals of undermining our system".

All information in the resolution "is a false fabrication cooked up by some hostile non-governmental organisations" funded by the US, he said.

Lithuania's deputy UN ambassador Rita Kazragiene, who introduced the resolution, said North Korea's positive steps in the past year, including signing the convention on the rights of people with disabilities, "do not go nearly far enough and are clearly outweighed by a general deterioration in the overall human rights situation".

The resolution highlights "inhuman" conditions of detention, public executions, collective punishments extending up to three generations, the extensive use of forced labour, limitations on every person who wants to travel in the country or abroad and severe punishment of refugees or asylum seekers returned to North Korea.

It also expresses "very deep concern at the precarious humanitarian situation in the country, which could rapidly deteriorate" because of North Korea's "limited resilience towards natural disasters" and government policies causing limited availability and access to food.

Meanwhile the human rights committee welcomed pledges by Iran's new president on some important human rights issues, but expressed deep concern at serious abuses including torture, frequent use of the death penalty, and widespread restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression.

A Canadian-sponsored resolution urging Iran to address ongoing abuses was adopted 83-36 with 62 abstentions. The General Assembly is expected to give final approval next month.

Canada's UN ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski said "human rights violations in Iran continue to be widespread and grave" and urged the government "to demonstrate a real commitment to human rights reform".

Iran's UN ambassador Mohammad Khazaee accused Canada of brushing off "Iran's enormous advancement" and presenting a resolution "devoid of facts".

AP

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