UN Human Rights Abuses Investigators to Seek Cooperation From North Korea

Created: 2013-05-09 11:11 EST

Category: World

The former Australian judge heading the United Nations' investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in North Korea said on Thursday that he will seek the cooperation of Pyongyang and plans to visit refugee communities in South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Michael Kirby, former justice of Australia's High Court, was named this week as the head of a three-person team who will look into allegations of torture and labour camps in North Korea that are believed to hold at least 200,000 people.

Kirby, who has previously investigated alleged human rights abuses in Cambodia, said he had already received "hundreds of emails" from human rights organisations and representatives of those alleging abuse by North Korea since his appointment.

[Michael Kirby, UN Commision On North Korea]:

"When the commission is up and running after the first of July, 2013 then we will start working through our methodology to consult and see as many as possible. There are groups of refugees from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in Japan, in South Korea and in Thailand and I would expect that the commission of inquiry would be seeing them in those countries."

Kirby said contacting North Korean authorities would be "top of the list" of priorities and was hopeful of a response from the government and its strongest supporters in neighbouring China and Russia.

The Council unanimously passed a resolution brought by the European Union and Japan, and backed by the United States, which set up the inquiry and condemned alleged North Korean torture, food deprivation and labour camps.

Pyongyang denies the existence of labour camps and activists do not expect them to cooperate with the investigation, having denounced it during a U.N. Human Rights Council debate.

North Korea's closest allies China and Russia are not currently members of the Geneva forum, and thus have no vote.

Kirby will be joined by Sonja Biserko, a founder of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, and Indonesia's Marzuki Darusman, the UN's current special rapporteur on North Korea, on the committee.