• Kyodo, Reuters

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A United Nations committee passed a draft resolution Tuesday introduced by Japan and the European Union denouncing North Korea’s human rights violations and seeking to bring the country’s top leaders before the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity.

The U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee on human rights has passed similar resolutions over the past ten years, but this year’s document contains the harshest condemnation yet, reflecting the commission of inquiry’s lengthy report in February that detailed North Korea’s alleged rights violations.

The draft resolution apparently angered North Korea, prompting Pyongyang to initiate a series of diplomatic actions to urge the EU to modify the text, which was circulated last month among committee members.

The vote increases political pressure on North Korea but it is largely symbolic. It is unlikely to lead to action in the ICC at The Hague, which looks at serious abuses like genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Diplomats said North Korea ally China would probably use its Security Council veto power to stop any ICC referral. They said Beijing’s stance would likely be supported by Russia.

Cuba, a North Korean ally, had proposed an amendment to the draft resolution seeking to delete critical paragraphs that urge the U.N. Security Council to refer North Korea to the ICC.

A Cuban official said the resolution would set a precedent of political manipulation to employ the ICC as a tool in condemning developing countries. The amendment was rejected by a majority vote.

The Japan-EU resolution “condemns the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights” in North Korea and expresses “very serious concern” at “the systematic abduction” of persons including those from other countries.

It said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe “crimes against humanity” have been committed in North Korea in accordance with “policies established at the highest level of the State for decades.”

The document encourages the Security Council to consider referring the situation in North Korea to the ICC as well as to study effective targeted sanctions “against those who appear to be most responsible for acts that the commission has said may constitute crimes against humanity.”

Before the vote at the committee, a North Korean delegate said Pyongyang was open to “constructive cooperation” on human rights. “Unfortunately, however, the European Union and Japan chose to prove confrontation by trying to enforce the adoption of the draft resolution, which fails to reflect the reality on the ground,” he said.

The resolution will go to the full General Assembly for formal approval in December.

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