The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] on Thursday adopted a resolution establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate ongoing human rights violations in North Korea. The resolution was unanimously passed [Reuters report] during the 22nd Regular Session [materials] of the council. The council voted to establish the commission of inquiry in response to a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea [official website] urging UN oversight and indicating widespread human rights violations including violations of the right to food, pervasive impunity, torture, circumscription of due process, public executions, and enforced disappearances. A North Korean ambassador observing the council denied the report's accusations and suggested that the resolution was politically motivated. The commission has been given a one-year mandate to investigate the alleged human rights violations and produce a report.
The UN has sought to investigate and counter human rights abuses in North Korea in the past. In February Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman and a group of independent human rights experts announced their support for an international inquiry [JURIST report] into human rights violations in North Korea to bring awareness to the country's system of political prison camps. Also in February Darusman urged the UNHRC and the General Assembly to investigate human rights violations in North Korea [JURIST report]. In November he expressed concern over the country's lack of development in human rights, and called on its new leader, Kim Jong-un, to remedy the matter. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned North Korea's human rights record [JURIST report] and urged the international community to make efforts to improve the situation. Pillay's plea came only days after Human Rights Watch called on the UN [JURIST report] to examine human rights abuses, particularly in light of the drop in individuals escaping into China and reports by successful escapees of increasing crackdown on escape attempts.