North Korea condemns Australian judge behind UN rights report

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea on Friday condemned an Australian judge who led a UN investigation that concluded that North Korean security chiefs and possibly its leader should face justice for torture and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency, citing a pro-North Korean politician from Brazil, said the judge, Michael Kirby, had manipulated evidence at the behest of North Korea's old enemy, the United States.

"(Kirby's) mission is to manipulate 'evidence' on the orders of Washington, lie about (North) Korea and oppose the republic under an international alliance that is controlled by the United States," KCNA said.

North Korean state media often uses comment from small, foreign support groups to criticise the United States and South Korea.

Judge Kirby and his team issued their 372-page report on Feb 17 after a year-long investigation marked by unprecedented public testimony by defectors at hearings held in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.

The investigators told North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, in a letter that they were advising the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to make sure any culprits "including possibly yourself" were held accountable.

North Korea had earlier "categorically and totally" rejected the accusations set out in the report, saying they were based on material faked by hostile forces backed by the United States, the European Union and Japan.

But it had not made such a direct attack on Judge Kirby.

"He has never visited Pyongyang or talked with (North) Korean representatives and has instead followed the Nazi theory that if a lie is told enough times, it is believed to be true,"the KCNA said, referring to North Korean defectors' testimony.

The UN investigators said North Korea's extermination of political prisoners over the past five decades might amount to genocide, and evoked Nazi-era atrocities.

Judge Kirby, who was Australia's longest-standing judge before he retired in 2009, said in the report that the UN Commission of Inquiry's "repeated requests" to visit North Korea and its prison facilities were rejected by Pyongyang.

A human rights activist said it was no surprise that North Korea had singled out the judge for criticism.

"It is natural for North Korea to go after Michael Kirby, since as the head of the commission he has been most vocal and as an Australian he fits their narrative of being attacked by the US and their allies better than the other commissioners from Serbia and Indonesia," said Mr Sokeel Park of Liberty in North Korea, a group that works with North Korean defectors.

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