rights watchdog-NK violations

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- More than two years after the launch of a new reporting agency by South Korea's top human rights watchdog to handle North Korea's rights violation cases, the center has failed to fulfill its duties, with not a single case being investigated, officials said Friday.

In March 2011, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) set up the North Korean Human Rights Violations Reporting Center and the Hall of North Korean Human Rights Violation Record as part of efforts to execute mid- to long-term goals of improving North Korea's human rights.

The agency has so far received a total of 81 complaints, but it dismissed all of the cases just recently, even before launching a probe into them, saying the examination is practically impossible under the current circumstances of the divided Koreas.

Cases include torture or other forms of physical abuse at prison camps, or violent crackdowns on would-be defectors at the North Korean border, according to its officials.

Even before the establishment, some raised questions over the effectiveness of the agency in charge of taking the grievances. They said probing such cases would not be possible as the accused in most cases would be the North Korean leaders.

"All the cases have just been dismissed recently, meaning that the center has sat idle over the past two years. It should have been more swift and active in dealing with them so that the complaints can be transferred to the violation record center for at least being used as references for scholars or policymakers," said an official of Seoul's civic group.

In addition, the rights watchdog has not received any complaints since last year, with its investigation bureau simply storing the cases at the hall of violation records.

The NHRC chief refused to comment on the issue, while an official of the commission expressed regret.

"It is a pity that the agency has not achieved what it aimed for in the first place," said an NHRC official, declining to be identified.

"It was, at least, supposed to encourage the Seoul government to raise those rights violations issues filed with it on the international arena to raise public awareness and to put pressure on the communist country to improve the situation."

North Korea is considered one of the world's worst perpetrators of human rights violations, while the North has bristled at such charges, saying such accusations are merely a U.S.-lead attempt to topple the communist regime.

On early Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a three-member Commission of Inquiry on North Korean Human Rights for a one-year mission, a move viewed as largely symbolic but significant in sending a message to Pyongyang.

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