UN slams North Korea for 'systematic' abductions of foreigners

GENEVA (AFP) - The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday harshly criticised North Korea for the "systematic abduction" of foreigners, after a UN investigation found the country had snatched up to 200,000 foreign nationals.

But the 47-member rights body's resolution was slammed by North Korean ambassador Ri Hung Sik, who claimed it was a "political plot filled with frauds and distortions".

The adopted text decried North Korea's "systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons, including those from other countries, on a large scale and as a matter of state policy".

A UN-mandated investigation issued a searing report in February 2014 accusing North Korea of committing human rights violations "without parallel in the contemporary world", including the abductions of an estimated 200,000 foreign nationals from at least 12 countries. Most of them were South Koreans left stranded after the 1950-1953 Korean War, but hundreds of others from around the world have since been taken or disappeared while visiting the secretive Stalinist state.

The number of Japanese citizens believed to have been taken to train North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs are now estimated "in the hundreds", the UN's top investigator on the rights situation in North Korea Marzuki Darusman told reporters last week.

Mr Darusman, whose mandate was extended for another year by Friday's resolution, has called for international community to resolve the fate of the abductees, and to refer the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court.

Pyongyang agreed last May to reinvestigate the the cases of Japanese nationals kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s in return for Tokyo lifting sanctions against the secretive state.

Friday's resolution said it was "expecting concrete and positive results" from that probe.

The resolution also condemned the "long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations committed in... North Korea".

It called on Pyongyang to acknowledge the crimes, including suspected "crimes against humanity" and to "take immediate steps" to end all violations, and urged the international community to help bring those responsible to justice.

North Korea "is among the world's most pervasive deniers of freedoms and violators of human rights", US ambassador Keith Harper told the council.

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