GENEVA – A U.N. monitor Wednesday called on China to bring ally North Korea to heel over its systemic human rights abuses, likening Beijing’s clout to that of the United States with Israel.
“How are we going to persuade China that they are in a position to do this? They don’t accept that they have any kind of influence on the North Koreans,” Marzuki Darusman, a former chief prosecutor of Indonesia, told reporters. “This is the kind of denial that the United States has, that it has no hold on Israel. It’s an analogy, but nevertheless, it’s substantive.”
He said it was also up to the entire international community to step up efforts to call Pyongyang to account. “North Korea is isolated. But that saddles us all with the problem,” he said.
Darusman has monitored North Korea since 2010 for the U.N. Human Rights Council, despite a refusal to cooperate by the closed Stalinist nation. He is also part of a U.N.-mandated inquiry team that earlier this year issued a damning 400-page report detailing endemic abuses by the North.
The report spotlighted rape, torture and enslavement, saying they could amount to crimes against humanity and comparing them to the actions of Nazi Germany.
The inquiry team has called for North Korea to be hauled before the International Criminal Court, potentially to prosecute dictator Kim Jong Un and leading figures in his regime.
“What is happening in North Korea cannot just be attributed to one single person at the top, although that single person at the very top is culpable,” said Darusman.
But referral to the ICC requires approval by the U.N. Security Council, where China wields a veto.
Simply pointing the finger is no longer enough, Darusman said, because “it doesn’t do justice to the enormity and range of issues that prevail there in the country.”
Barred from entering North Korea, the U.N. monitors have interviewed defectors in South Korea and other countries, and used satellite imagery to build an idea of Pyongyang’s network of concentration camps.
North Korea has dubbed the defectors “human scum” and, in regular attacks at the U.N. Human Rights Council, charged that its investigations are part of a “vicious, hostile policy” piloted by its archfoe, the United States.
Darusman derided that position. “It’s a convenient facade that the North Koreans are adopting, by continuing with their denials but at the same time seeming to engage by being present at the U.N. Human Rights Council sessions and responding to the findings by continuing with the theme that all the findings are fabricated,” he said.
The United Nations plans to deploy a full-time North Korea human rights team that would be based in Seoul. The North has responded by threatening that anyone involved will be “ruthlessly punished.”
Darusman said there was no room for such rhetoric.
“We just need to go back to the basics. The country (North Korea) is part of the U.N. and therefore it’s bound by the practices and norms of the United Nations,” he said.