A U.N. committee overseeing human rights issues on Tuesday passed a resolution on North Korea for the ninth year in a row, pressing it to resolve the issue of its past abductions of Japanese and other foreign nationals and tackle a range of other violations.
The resolution, led by Japan and the European Union, was adopted by consensus without a vote for a second year in a row. However, a group of countries, including Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and China, later said they disassociated themselves from the consensus, expressing discontent with country-specific resolutions.
Japanese Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa said the human rights situation in North Korea "continues to be a very serious concern for the international community," pointing to the U.N. Human Rights Council's decision to establish a commission of inquiry into the country's record.
"The abductions issues remain a deeply distressing concern for our country, as well as the international community," he said.
The resolution underscores the "very serious concern at unresolved questions of international concern relating to abductions in the form of enforced disappearance."
Among the foreign nationals abducted by North Korea are a number of Japanese, who were taken there during the 1970s and 1980s mainly for the purpose of teaching the Japanese language and culture.
The resolution calls on Pyongyang "urgently to resolve these questions, including through existing channels" to ensure the "immediate return of abductees."
The text also expresses "very deep concern" at the "precarious humanitarian situation" in North Korea and calls on the country to ensure that its citizens who are expelled or returned to the North are "able to return in safety and dignity" and "are not subjected to any kind of punishment."
Additionally, the text "strongly urges all states to respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement," a principle in international law forbidding victims of persecution to be returned to their countries, and "to treat those who seek refuge humanely."
It urges North Korea to cooperate with the new commission of inquiry by, for example, allowing the special rapporteur, Marzuki Darusman, to visit. Pyongyang has refused entry to such officials in the past.
A North Korean representative said the resolution was "yet another clear representation of (the) inferior moral quality of Japan."
"Japan must liquidate its own dirty human rights record before talking about other country's human rights situations," the representative said.
Meanwhile, three other country-specific resolutions were adopted on the human rights situations in Myanmar, Iran and Syria during the third committee proceedings.
In December the resolutions will be brought before a plenary session of the General Assembly to be put up for a vote, with all likely to be adopted.