By Julian Pecquet - 02/14/13 10:57 PM EST
Congress and the Obama administration launched a concerted effort calling on the United Nations to investigate North Korea's “grave, widespread and systematic violations of human rights” in the wake of the country's third nuclear test.
The Senate Foreign Relations panel adopted legislation Thursday urging the administration to press for further sanctions at the U.N. Security Council and to request that the U.N. Human Rights Council establish an “inquire mechanism” into human rights abuses, as recommended by the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, Marzuki Darusman. The bill passed after the phrase “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization for the use of force against North Korea” was added to placate Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulLawmaker seeks to investigate Obama's foreign tax compliance law Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears GOP senators hit FBI on early probe of NY bombing suspect MORE (R-Ky.).
And House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) raised the issue of the 200,000 prisoners believed to be in North Korea's gulags when he hosted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made similar comments during her daily briefing Thursday.
“The United States remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea],” she said. “We do support the establishment of enhanced mechanisms of inquiry into the DPRK's human rights violations at the U.N. Human Rights Council's upcoming session.
“We continue to work actively with our partners and to work closely with international organizations, including by co-sponsoring resolutions in the Human Rights Council and the [General Assembly], to raise attention and to seek redress with regard to the deplorable human rights conditions in the DPRK And we also support the work of the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, whom the DPRK authorities have continued to deny access into the country.”