North Korea asks top UN rights body to probe CIA torture

North Korea's ambassador So Se Pyong speaks to members of the media during a news conference in Geneva, Jan 15, 2015. North Korea on Thursday urged the UN Human Rights Council to discuss CIA torture revelations and set up an independent investigation
North Korea's ambassador So Se Pyong speaks to members of the media during a news conference in Geneva, Jan 15, 2015. North Korea on Thursday urged the UN Human Rights Council to discuss CIA torture revelations and set up an independent investigation. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - North Korea on Thursday urged the UN Human Rights Council to discuss CIA torture revelations and set up an independent investigation.

"This morning... I sent a letter to the president of the Human Rights Council... requesting that the council take up the issue of CIA torture crimes committed by the United States," said So Se Pyong, North Korea's ambassador to the UN in Geneva.

He told reporters that Pyongyang wants the UN's top rights body to formally discuss the US interrogation techniques, detailed in a Senate report late last year, at its main annual session in March.

In his letter, which came amid heightened tensions with Washington, So said he had also requested the establishment of an "independent commission of inquiry mandated to make a thorough investigation of CIA torture crimes, and hold those responsible to account."

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong will attend the March session, he said.

The Senate report revealed that methods used under the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation programme were far harsher than previously disclosed, and included techniques like beatings, rectal rehydration, sleep deprivation, waterboarding or simulated drowning, confinement in wooden boxes and threats of physical or sexual violence against family members.

The detention and interrogation practices were used at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and at secret detention facilities - so-called "black sites" - where detainees were held covertly at locations worldwide.

So stressed the need for a UN probe, saying what was revealed in the report was just the tip of the iceberg.

'BROAD US-BACKED CONSPIRACY'

So's comments came a day after North Korea demanded that the UN drop its call to refer Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court after a prominent defector retracted part of his testimony to a UN rights inquiry.

New York-based Ambassador Ja Song Nam sent a letter to the UN General Assembly and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon branding Shin Dong-hyuk a "swindler", after he admitted this week that elements of his best-selling gulag survivor book Escape From Camp 14 were inaccurate.

The well-known defector has insisted though that the crucial details of his suffering and torture still stood.

And the head of the UN inquiry said Shin's partial retractions had no impact on the panel's findings, that North Korea was committing human rights violations "without parallel in the contemporary world".

So, however, charged Thursday that Shin's "lies" were part of a broad, US-backed conspiracy aimed at forcing regime change in North Korea through a "false" image of the human rights situation in the country.

He said he in his letter had urged the head of the rights body in Geneva to "take appropriate measures to put an end to and prevent the reoccurrence of such anti-DPRK plots in the Human Rights Council."