North Korea

UN inquiry into human rights appeals for access to North Korea

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 1:24am

A UN inquiry gathering harrowing testimony of human rights abuses in North Korea appealed for access to the country, even as Pyongyang condemned its work as slanderous and provocative.

The three-member Commission of Inquiry chaired by retired Australian judge Michael Kirby has just wrapped up five days of disturbing hearings in the South Korean capital Seoul - mostly testimony from North Korean defectors.

North Korea, which strongly denies allegations of rights abuses, refused to recognise the commission and barred it from visiting the country. Despite an attack by the Korean Central News Agency, Kirby issued another in a long series of formal and informal appeals to grant his three-member panel of experts access to the country.

"We will act with respect, we seek to find facts, we will provide due process, we will have no preconceptions," he said.

The commission's repeated requests for access included a formal written letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but it had no direct response.

The commission is the first UN expert panel to officially examine North Korea's human rights record, and plans to collect witness testimony in Japan, Thailand, Britain and the United States.