U.N. panel to decide N. Korea committed crimes against humanity

SEOUL, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) -- A special United Nations panel on North Korea's human rights abuses has been seeking to determine whether the communist country's massive violation constitutes crimes against humanity, a U.N. special rapporteur on the issue said Friday.

"We have a clear picture of what is happening there. It is the almost-complete denial of the human rights in the country," said Marzuki Darusman in a press conference held in downtown Seoul.

"The commission has been documenting a wide range of rights violations and seeking to determine whether they will constitute crimes against humanity and who or which institution should be held accountable," he added.

He is a member of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), a three-man investigation body led by retired Australian Judge Michael Kirby.

Darusman arrived in Seoul on Wednesday for a three-day visit.

In August, the COI began its investigation in Seoul after the U.N. launched the agency in March under a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution, and it is scheduled to present a final written report on their findings to the human rights council in March next year.

It was the U.N.'s first attempt to launch an official investigative mission on the North's widely condemned human rights abuses.

In order to grasp the situation with regard to the decreasing number of North Koreans crossing the border into China to leave their homeland, he also said the COI "has been seeking an access to China" to see if it is due to the North's tightening up the border or the improved situation in the impoverished communist country.

As a way to improve the human rights situation in the North, he stressed the need to pursue the humanitarian outreach than putting pressure on it.

"Pressure is not going to change anything. In the long run, the humanitarian outreach holds more promise in resolving the (rights violation) problem," he said.

"What I mean here by the outreach is assistance without any condition targeted for promoting health, education, and needs of women and children, for example," Darusman said, adding it will enable "North Koreans themselves to improve the situation that would not require the government to deny rights of its own citizens."

Dismissing arguments that the assistance for the impoverished country has rather allowed the regime to build its nuclear capabilities, he stressed the need for aid without strings attached.

"It is a wrong argument, as the World Food Program, for example, has established that food has reached down to the people, and there has been no diversion of food to the military. Such an argument is not well-founded."

Stressing that every entity that bears interests in North Korea has "indirect responsibilities" in terms of its massive rights violations, he called for the reconsideration of the current way of dealing with the issue.

"North Korea has a primary obligation to ensure the rights of its people, but it is impossible to resolve the situation within the country if we don't address the external factors," he said.

"We cannot separate the two. We've always separated them over the last 10 years, and it turns out to be wrong. We cannot just leave the issue to North Korea."

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