UN: Time for criminal charges against North Korea leadership

A United Nations investigator says the world must back a criminal prosecution of North Korea’s leaders.

This undated photo file released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 27 December 272013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Picture: AFP/Files/KCNA via KNS Republic of Korea.

GENEVA - The world must back a criminal prosecution of North Korea's leaders as there has been no improvement in human rights there in the two years since a United Nations (UN) report detailed Nazi-style atrocities, a UN investigator said on Friday.

"In addition to continuing political pressure to exhort the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to improve human rights, it is also now imperative to pursue criminal responsibility of the DPRK leadership," said Marzuki Darusman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea.

His comments came as the isolated state said it had detained a US university student for committing a "hostile act" and wanting to "destroy the country's unity".

The 2014 UN report on North Korea's human rights concluded that security chiefs and possibly even leader Kim Jong Un should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings.

The report prompted the UN General Assembly to urge the UN Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Only the 15-member Security Council can refer the situation in North Korea to the ICC, but diplomats say China, North Korea's main benefactor, would likely veto such a move.

In February last year, North Korea's ambassador to the UN said his country was not concerned about the threat because it was not guilty of any crime.

Darusman, a co-author of the 2014 report, was speaking at the end of a trip to Tokyo, having been repeatedly refused access to North Korea. During his five days in Japan, he met family members of people allegedly abducted by North Korea.